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Tips for Teens with Diabetes

Be Active!

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Physical activity is good for everyone. Being active is really important if you have diabetes. Check out these ideas on how to be more active.

Being active helps you: relax, lose weight, feel better, sleep well, lower blood glucose, have more energy, and be more alert.

Get moving! Find great activity tips

Get into action and have fun!

What’s so important about being physically active?

Image of three girls joggingBeing active keeps your body healthy and strong and gives you more energy. It can help you think and be more alert in school. It can also help you stay at a healthy weight or help you lose weight slowly. Being active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Physical activity can make you feel better if you are in a bad mood or stressed out. It can relax you and help you sleep well. It helps your body use blood glucose (GLOO-kos), also called blood sugar, for energy. Physical activity can help keep your blood glucose in a normal range.

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What activities can I do?

Image of teens hiking through the woodsThere are many ways you can be active. Pick things you like to do.

  • Take a walk, hike, or ride a bike.

  • Skateboard, roller blade, or ice skate.

  • Play some music and dance with your friends. If you like video games, try a dance or other active video game.

  • Play basketball, baseball, softball, golf, soccer, tennis, volleyball, or your favorite sport.

  • Go bowling.

Think of other things you like to do and just move! It is an easy way to have fun.

Make physical activity a part of your daily life. Be active with your friends or family members. It is easier and more fun when you ask someone to join you.

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How active should I be?

If you have not been very active in the past, start slowly. Try a few minutes each day. Do not get upset if you cannot do a lot or if you get out of breath at first—keep moving. Any amount of activity will help. Slowly work up to at least 60 minutes everyday. You might find it fun to count your steps with a pedometer (step counter). Add a few more steps each day. Over time, work up to at least 10,000 steps a day.

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What should I do before being more active?

Image of a doctor talking to a young womanTalk to your doctor about the types of physical activity that might work best for you.

  • Check your blood glucose before the start and after the end of your activity.

  • If you take insulin, make sure your blood glucose does not get too low during or after activity. Always wear a Medical ID bracelet.

  • Keep something handy to treat low blood glucose, such as fruit juice, glucose tablets, or a snack.

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But I hate to exercise – what can I do?

Image of a couple girls piggy back ridingYou do not have to play a sport or go to a gym. There are a lot of things you can do to be more active:

  • Do sit-ups or jump rope while watching TV.

  • Lift light weights to strengthen your muscles.

  • Jog around the block or walk fast around the mall a few times.

  • Help your mom or dad carry groceries, clean the house, cut grass, do garden work, rake leaves, or shovel snow.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

  • Take your dog for a walk.

  • Ride your bike instead of driving or getting a ride from your parents or a friend.

Make a list of things you like to do to be physically active. Hang it in your room as a reminder.Keep track of your progress.

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Who can help me be more active?

Image of a family in swimming poolAsk your family members and friends to do something fun with you—and work up a sweat. Being active is good for them too and a great way for families to spend time together. Ask your family to take a walk after dinner instead of watching TV. Instead of computer games, play music that the whole family likes and dance!

Start an activity group with your friends. Try a different sport or activity each week, or simply walk home from school together instead of taking the bus.

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Tips for parents

Image of a woman doing rock climbingto promote physical activity for teens in their community

  • Talk to school staff about allowing more activity time for students.

  • Ask if you can schedule physical activities such as karate or dance at the school during after-school hours.

  • Involve your family in active programs like the YMCA, swim clubs, 4H, Boy or Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs, and youth recreation programs.

  • Talk to local leaders about making safe places for teens to be active.

  • Volunteer to help create or fix up public playgrounds or sports grounds.

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How can I manage my diabetes?

Image of teenagers inline skating and skateboardingIf you have diabetes, you need to be active, make healthy food choices, and stay at a healthy weight. You also need to take your insulin or any other medicines that your doctor tells you to and check your blood glucose as planned with your health care team. Taking care of your diabetes can help you stay fit, feel great, and give you more energy to have fun.

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Learn more! Check out…

Image of teenagers sliding down snowy slopeNational Diabetes Education Program
to get free copies of other tip sheets for teens:

  • What is Diabetes?
  • Stay at a Healthy Weight
  • Make Healthy Food Choices
  • Dealing With the Ups and Downs of Diabetes
  • Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

www.YourDiabetesInfo.org • 1-888-693-NDEP

American Association of Diabetes Educators to find a diabetes educator near you
1-800-338-DMED (1-800-338-3633)

American Diabetes Association for help to manage diabetes www.diabetes.org/planetD
1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)

American Dietetic Association to find a dietitian near you
www.eatright.org • 1-800-366-1655

Bam! Body and Mind website for help to stay healthy

Children With Diabetes website for more about kids and families with diabetes www.childrenwithdiabetes.com

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International for help to manage diabetes www.jdrf.org

National Association for Health and Fitness that promotes physical activity www.physicalfitness.org

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse for more about diabetes www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

Nutrition and Physical Activity
website for healthy eating tips and the Kids Walk to School Program www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/publications

Parks and Recreation Youth Programs where you live. Type the name of your town or city followed by “parks and recreation youth programs” into an online search engine.

President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for more about physical activity www.fitness.gov

Walkability Checklist to find a friendly place to walk www.walkableamerica.org/checklist-walkability.pdf

WIN – Weight-control Information Network for weight control help:

  • Take Charge of Your Health! A Teenager’s Guide to Better Health


YMCA for youth and family activities www.ymca.net


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Special thanks to the teens who helped create this tip sheet

Francine Kaufman, M.D., Head, Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Janet Silverstein, M.D., Professor and Chief, Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL reviewed this material for technical accuracy.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services logoNational Diabetes Education Program logoControl your diabetes for life logo


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the support of more than 200 partner organizations. www.YourDiabetesInfo.org or 1-888-693-NDEP
Revised November 2007   NIH PublicationNo. 08-5295   NDEP-64

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