Lifestyle Changes and Diabetes

Lifestyle Changes and Diabetes

Lee esto en EspañolThere’s a safe way to get a handle on your diabetes: Create an exercise and diet plan. With exercise, you can help your blood sugar stay in your target range. By making better food choices, you help manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.  

Moving your body on a regular basis and eating healthier can deliver other great benefits, too. With a solid plan in place and steady effort, you may be able to: 

  • Trim your body fat 
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level
  • Improve your circulation 
  • Lower your risk for heart disease 

Before you start any kind of physical activity, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to exercise. Ask for advice about what type of activities might be best for you.  

Begin slowly. Give your body time to get used to moving without straining or hurting yourself.

Here are a few tips to help you get started: 

  • Try to exercise on the same days, at the same times. Slow and steady wins the race. 
  • Plan how long and how often you will work out, and what you'll be doing. Based on your doctor's guidance, your choices can be anything from a daily walk around the block to swimming laps three or four days a week. 
  • A workout buddy can make exercise more fun. When it’s fun, you're more likely to stick with it. 

Find great exercise resources including information about SilverSneakers® Fitness Program in Stay Active and Healthy with Workout to Go.  


Changing old eating habits can be hard. Remember, your health care team can help you make those important changes. A diabetic educator or dietitian can tell you how many calories you need each day and which food groups should make up the bulk of your calories.

If you don't already keep a meal log, you may be asked to start one so there's a good outline of what you're really eating each day.  

So, what should you eat? The best diet for people with diabetes is the same one that is best for nearly everyone: a balanced mix of fruits, veggies, grains, protein and very little refined sugar.

Here's a quick review of some other important food facts you should know:  

  • Fiber is part of plant foods that the body cannot break down or absorb. There are two types. Soluble fiber dissolves and can help lower cholesterol and sugar levels. Insoluble fiber helps move digested food through the system. High fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran. 
  • Carbohydrates help control blood sugar levels. Like almost everything else, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs are found in fruits, vegetables and grains. Sweets and drinks with added sugar are bad carbs.
  • Fish like fresh tuna and halibut often have less saturated fat and cholesterol than beef or chicken. Fish like tuna, sardines and salmon are also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Take the guess work out of what to eat using tips, recipes and sample meals from the American Diabetes Associationleaving site icon

While there is no magic bullet for managing diabetes, exercise and diet can help.  

Source: Diabetes Overview, leaving site icon National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2023
SilverSneakers® is a wellness program owned and operated by Tivity Health, Inc., an independent company. Tivity Health and SilverSneakers®   are registered trademarks or trademarks of Tivity Health, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries.  
Important Plan Information

Originally published 5/13/2019; Revised 2021, 2023