Outdoor Exercise Ideas for Diabetes—That You'll Actually Look Forward To

By: Bailey McGrath & Micaela Young, M.S.  |  Diabetic Living Summer 2018

Getting exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and find an activity you actually enjoy. Here are our favorite ideas to get moving, plus what to pack.

Getting physical activity is a key part of managing diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But you don't have to run 10 miles or hit the gym. The ultimate goal is to move more. You'll be more successful—and more likely to stick to your exercise goals—if you find a "workout" that you actually like. Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and find a heart-pumping outdoor hobby you enjoy, so your workouts become something to look forward to.

Related: 5 Best Nature Walks in National Parks

What to Pack

As you head outdoors, don't forget the essentials! Be sure to pack:

  • Water
  • Your meter
  • A source of glucose (such as Dex4 glucose tabs or Transcend oral glucose gel)
  • Wear an ID that identifies you as a person with diabetes, such as a necklace, bracelet or shoe tag available from Road ID ($19.99; roadid.com).

1. Take a Nature Walk

When was the last time you set off for the woods? Nature walks offer a chance to calm your mind, heighten your senses and observe local wildlife—all while working in some exercise. Spending time on the trails has also been shown to improve mental well-being and reduce negative thought patterns linked with depression.

Even a leisurely pace counts as exercise: a 175-pound adult will burn an average of 160 calories an hour walking at a casual pace (2 miles per hour) and 300 calories an hour walking at a brisk pace (3.5 miles per hour).

Find guided walks near you through your local library or your state's parks and rec website. Or grab a friend, borrow or buy a basic field guide (we like the National Audubon Society's regional field guides) and head for a nearby park.

2. Go Kayaking

Kayaking is a great activity that combines cardio and resistance training while letting you enjoy the calm of the water. You'll work your shoulders and lats to paddle, and use your core stabilizing muscles to stay balanced. (Don't worry—kayaks built with stability in mind have little risk of tipping over!) Don't let the low-impact nature of this water activity fool you: on average, a 175-pound person will burn nearly 200 calories over 30 minutes.

The easiest way to start kayaking is to rent a kayak from a launch point (many launches will even help you get in the water). If you're in the market to buy, we love Oru Kayak's foldable model (Oru Kayak Beach LT, $1,299; orukayak.com) that's surprisingly spacious, yet compact enough to fit in your car and carry to the water. It weighs just 26 pounds.

3. Go for a Bike Ride

Bike riding

Channel your inner child and hop on your bike again. This low-impact activity is kind to your joints and good for your heart. Plus, pedaling works several large muscle groups at once, which can help boost your body's sensitivity to insulin. Thirty minutes on the trails or around your neighborhood will expend an average of 158 calories for a 175-pound person.

If you're new to biking, or not quite comfortable on two wheels, try out a stationary bike at a gym first to practice your balance. When you're ready to hit the trails, we like Specialized's model with a padded seat and wide tires that offer extra traction and stability (Specialized Roll Low Entry, $490; specialized.com), helping to keep you safe on both paved and dirt trails.

Watch: Get Motivated to Lose Weight!

More to Ways to Get Healthy:

5-Day Diabetes Meal Plan for Summer
How to Kick Your Soda Habit
Summer Tone-Up: 30-Minute Workout for Any Fitness Level