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Walking when you have diabetes

If you’re looking for a way to include more physical activity and exercise into your daily routine, walking is a great place to start. It’s free, you can walk almost anywhere at any time or on the spot. And it’s good for your diabetes. 

Walking is a great way to be less sedentary and break up long periods of sitting time, which we know can be harmful to our health. Breaking up periods of sitting with short, frequent walks can help people with type 2 diabetes reduce their blood sugar levels and their risk of complications, research has shown. And a study we've funded has now found the same benefits for people with type 1 diabetes.

And walking is low impact – which means it’s easy on your joints – and it’s suitable for all fitness levels and ages.  

If you’d like to do more walking but are worried about how it will affect your blood sugar levels, or don’t know how to start, we’ve got lots of practical tips to give you confidence. We’ve also got tips on looking after your feet, which is important if you have diabetes.

Benefits of walking when you have diabetes 

When you have diabetes, moving more can make a huge difference to how you feel and how you manage your condition. So, whether you have type 1, type 2 or another type of diabetes, walking is a good way to get physically active and build movement into your daily routine. This is because walking:  

  • helps the body use insulin better.
  • helps relieve stress which can affect your blood sugar levels, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.  
  • helps you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier – increasing the speed at which you walk increases the benefits. 
  • is a low-risk activity because it’s easy on your joints.  
  • it can help improve your sleep. 

"I’d never have imagined that a brisk walk every day could have such amazing benefits in so many different ways." 
Read David’s story

Tips for doing more walking 

If you’re unsure if walking is suitable for you, speak to your healthcare team first. They should also be able to offer you advice if you are concerned about falling or worried about any other mobility issues. 

If you feel like you need to start off at an easier pace, try standing during a TV advert. If you can manage it, work towards standing for the whole advert break, then move to walking on the spot. You can do it while you’re cooking or watching a film or your favourite TV programme. 

Set realistic goals 

A walk can be as short or as long as you decide, for example, a few minutes on the spot, or a walk round the block or into town. You can also walk slow or fast, or along different terrain, but it needs to be suitable for you. You can always make things harder once it becomes too easy and less motivating. 

Be creative with your walks and add variety

  • Park your car further away or get off public transport a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. 
  • Try walk and talk phone conversations or meetings.  
  • Go for a walk with a friend or relative in your local park. 

Set aside a regular time 

Have a set time during the day or week to go on your walk - whether that’s in the morning, during your lunch break or in the evening. This can help you to keep on track as you don’t have to think about fitting it into each day, it can become part of your normal routine. 

Plan your walks 

Have a rough plan of where you might want to walk. If you’re heading for a longer walk, you may want to include nature spots and access to toilets and a café. And take a bag to store a drink, snacks, clothes, mobile phone and your diabetes kit. To help protect your feet, wear well-fitting footwear that’s appropriate for the weather. 

To get ideas for local walks whatever part of the UK you’re in, find your local authority's website on and put in 'walking' or 'walks'. These often include routes and information for people with limited mobility.   

If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, you can also find walks on the Ramblers website. If you’re in Northern Ireland, browse walks on the Walk NI website

Stay connected

If you’re worried about staying motivated, finding a music playlist, radio show or podcast series to listen to when you’re walking can help to keep you engaged and make the time go faster. Your walks may also be a good time to check in with your family over the phone, or catch up with your friends and loved ones.

Keep on track with our activity planner 

Use the space in the activity planner in our free publication Your Guide to moving more when you have diabetes, to answer the questions about your walking and your reasons for doing so. It helps you track your progress over 10 weeks and reflect on any changes in how you’re feeling or anything that’s getting in the way of you doing it.   

Count your steps and set goals using an app 

There are lots of free tools and resources to help you get started, such as the NHS Active10 or MapMyWalk smartphone app. They both count your steps and let you set goals to work towards, so it’s great way to keep track of your activity. If you have an Android or an iPhone, you can download the free apps from your app store.  

Walk with others  

Join a walking group 

Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to get outside and get moving, but joining a walking group can really help. Together, you’ll be able to explore your local area and enjoy a range of walks.
If you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, head to the Ramblers website and type in your postcode or put in your area to find your local group.  If you're in Northern Ireland, find a local walking group on the Walk NI website. 

Join one of our walking challenges  

Become part of our team by signing up to one of our Sunday city Wellness Walks – with every route accessible to wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs – or our One Million Step Challenge. 

Not only will you have a goal to work towards, but you’ll also be helping us in our fight for a world where diabetes can do no harm.  

Find out more about walking for us. We’ll be with you every step of the way.  

Walking and managing your diabetes  

Here we’ll take you through some practical advice about snacking and managing your blood glucose (sugar) levels when walking. Walking at any time of the day can be beneficial when you have diabetes. This can be before a meal or after.  


If you have diabetes, the amount and type of food you will need when walking will depend on when you last ate, how hungry you are and your blood sugar levels. A slice of malt loaf, a yoghurt or a piece of fruit, such as banana, are good examples of pre- and post-walk snacks. Not everyone will need to have a snack before they start moving more, and what you do eat will also depend on the distance and pace of your walk. If you’re walking for over an hour at a brisk to fast pace, think about having a snack during your walk. 

Walking and blood sugar levels 

Depending on how long you walk for, and how fast your pace is, walking can either lower or raise your blood sugar levels. If you have type 1 diabetes or treat your diabetes with medications that can lower your blood sugars, such as sulphonylureas, you should check your blood sugar levels before, during and after your walk. It’s also important to make sure you carry hypo treatments and your diabetes ID with you, and to let a family member or loved one know which route you are taking.  

We’ve got more tips about managing your blood sugar levels when exercising, so that you can feel confident when walking.

Looking after your feet when walking 

Walking is considered safe for most people, including all ages and fitness levels. But it’s important to take extra care and look after your feet if you have diabetes. This is because you’re at a greater risk of developing foot complications or diabetic neuropathy. It’s important to wear socks that don’t rub and shoes that fit well, provide support and are appropriate for walking.  

To help prevent any problems with your feet, you should check them every day and look for any changes. Doing this after a walk is really important, as it can help you to spot any damage, such as blisters or cuts. And if you want to know more about looking after your feet, check out our page on taking care of your feet.  

If you’re living with foot complications, you should speak to your healthcare team before you take up serious walking. 

Where to get more support 

If you’d like to chat to someone about becoming more active or starting to walk more, call our helpline and speak to one of our trained advisors. 

Get in touch by calling 0345 123 2399 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, or emailing


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