Diabetes and Running: Everything You Need to Know

Regardless of whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, running can offer you a plethora of benefits – if you do it correctly.

But if you’re an avid runner, or wish to be one, you might be worried that your diabetes limits what you can achieve out on the treadmill, track, or natural terrain. Stop worrying: it’s entirely possible to run long distances – and even compete – with diabetes.

It’s all about knowing how to do it safely and effectively.

We can help you with that.


What You Should Know Before Beginning

  • It’s best to consult with your doctor before you do anything else. This particularly true if you have high blood pressure or an obstructed artery. Remember, your doctor knows your medical history and so is in the best position to recommend the proper exercise regiment for you. He or she can even refer you to someone else, like a professional exercise physiologist, who can work with you to come up with a customized plan.
  • Pace yourself. This is true for anyone but particularly true for anyone with a medical difficulty. Even if your goal is to race, getting to that level of ability isn’t one. The corollary to this is to be easy on yourself, especially if you haven’t been active for a while. It takes time to see results – this is true about anything.
  • Always, always, always be mindful of hydration. Don’t forget your water.

Running With Type 1 Diabetes

What is Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes ails about 10% of diabetics and is usually diagnosed in young adults and children. The cause is unknown. People afflicted with this have pancreases that produce no or a minuscule amount of the hormone known as insulin. Insulin allows for glucose (a simple sugar) to enter the cells and produce energy. So it follows naturally that a deficit of insulin will result in a deficit of energy, or chronic fatigue.

In addition to that, there are other symptoms that accompany type 1 diabetes that can cause the sufferer distress. These are as follows:

  • Thirst
  • An increase in urination frequency and even bedwetting
  • Weight loss
  • Mood changes
  • Blurred vision

Given all of the above, it isn’t hard to see why a type 1 diabetic would be skeptical about the effectiveness of running or about their ability to actually, seriously run. If you’re one of these, then keep reading: the next section will provide you with the tips you need to run with type 1 diabetes.

Tips for Running With Type 1 Diabetes

  • As we said earlier, consult with a doctor first. If given the green light, remember to always check your blood sugar levels before and after a run.
  • Opt for insulin pumps that offer a blood sugar monitor. That way you’ll never be caught unawares.
  • Make sure to always pack an appropriate (for you) amount of sugar. You can use sports drinks, glucose tablets, or anything you like – the goal is to allay the threat of hypoglycemia.
  • Remember that your blood glucose level decreases when exercising, so again, pack enough sugar accordingly
  • Remember also that during long runs, you can decrease your insulin use considerably; again, consult a doctor to see what’s right for you.
  • Be prepared for setbacks. Sometimes your blood sugar might spike on the shortest runs; other times you can breeze through many miles without setbacks. Things happen, don’t give up. There are many factors that can affect glucose and blood sugar levels, both positively and negatively. Don’t let what you can’t control bring you down.

Running With Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes ails almost 90% of diabetics. This is typically only diagnosed in adults, which is why it’s often referred to as Adult Onset Diabetes. People who suffer from this type of diabetes have bodies that can’t properly use the insulin that they produce – this is called “insulin resistance.”

Many of the symptoms of this type overlap with those of Type 1 diabetes, but there are some differences. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Blurry vision
  • Irritable moods
  • Excessive thirst
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring yeast infections
  • Wounds that don’t seem to heal

The thing to remember about type 2 diabetes is that, unlike type 1, it cannot be treated with insulin shots. Remember, the body doesn’t use insulin properly, so adding more insulin would be wholly ineffective.

But why does that happen?

The causes vary, but the two main ones are (a) genetics, which you can do nothing about, and (b) obesity, which you can do something about. Indeed, the one thing you can do to mitigate or completely do away with symptoms of type 2 diabetes is to make significant lifestyle changes. One such option you have is running, which, if done correctly, is a fantastic way to lose weight. 

Tips for Running With Type 2 Diabetes

  • Follow a doctor-approved diet. But keep in mind that there’s no specific diet for type 2 diabetics. Instead, you should be focused on lowering the number of calories you consume, cutting back on carbs (absolutely no sweets), increasing fiber intake, as well as veggie and fruit intake.
  • Focus on getting healthy before you think about getting serious about running. Your health should always come first. If you haven’t been active, it’s imperative that you run only for small amounts of time at low to moderate intensity; over time, as you build your endurance, you can build speed and run longer, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
  • Always carry an insulin pump with you to ensure your blood sugar levels don’t drop too low while running.
  • Remember not to lose hope: research shows that running promotes insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes. Keep going, no matter how hard it is

Final Thoughts

The benefits of running for diabetics are many. Actually, that’s true for almost anyone, not just diabetics. You can lose weight, gain muscle, improve your mood, strengthen bones, sleep better, increase HDL (the good cholesterol) levels, improve your mental health – and of course lower blood pressure and increase your energy levels.

It’s a win-win. All you need to do is stay focused and keep motivated and keep at it, day after day.

You can do it. One step at a time.


  1. Active
  2. Diabetes
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