Staying active with gestational diabetes

Exercise during pregnancy has a wide range of benefits for you and your baby. If you have gestational diabetes, you have even more reason to exercise: it can help reduce your blood glucose.

Pregnant woman swimming.

This is because when you work your muscles, they use more of the glucose in your blood.

If you are finding it hard to control your blood glucose levels through diet alone, it is worth looking at your activity levels to find ways to introduce more exercise into your daily routine.

You don’t need to join a gym: simply going for a half-hour walk after every meal, or going swimming or cycling a few times a week, can all help. Try to avoid long periods sitting down. Try some of our top tips to stay active.

If you are doing exercise, take this into account as you manage and monitor your blood glucose levels, to avoid a hypo (a hypo is more likely if you treat your diabetes with insulin or glibenclamide):

  • You may find it useful to monitor your blood levels before and after exercise until you become to know how exercise affects your blood glucose levels.
  • Take particular care to eat regularly, and carry snacks or glucose with you in case your blood glucose drops.
  • Keep exercise moderate, with rest periods so that you do not become exhausted.
  • If you are taking glibenclamide to help you control your blood glucose levels, you may need to have extra snacks before you exercise or reduce your medication – ask your team for advice.

"It was about willpower for me. Once I'd worked out how to keep the sugar spikes down I had a pretty unblemished record."Beth, mum of two

Discuss your plans for exercise with your healthcare team. They will be able to advise you on what to do, how often and for how long. If you don’t usually exercise, start off with 15 minutes of non-stop activity three times a week. Gradually increase this to 30 minutes five times a week – this can be as easy as going for a half-hour walk. 

More general guidance on exercise during pregnancy


  1. RCOG (2006) Recreational Exercise and Pregnancy: Information for you, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
  2. Clapp JF (1990) ‘The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy’ American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163 (6 Pt 1): 1799–805:
  3. NHS Choices [accessed April 2015] Gestational diabetes - treatment
  4. Heslehurst D, Brown A (2013) Managing obesity in pregnant women: an online guide for health professionals
  5. 5. NICE (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period, National Institute of Health and Care Excellence



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Read more about gestational diabetes treatment

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    Understanding the glycaemic index

    The glycaemic index is a measure of how quickly sugars are released into the bloodstream.

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    Managing your weight and gestational diabetes

    Women who are overweight are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, although many women who develop it are not overweight at all.

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    Meal ideas for diabetes

    These meal ideas offer some suggestions for meals that could help control your glucose levels, but you will need to use trial and error to find out what works best for you.

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    Healthy eating with gestational diabetes

    If you have diabetes in pregnancy, your choice of food is an important part of managing your condition.

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    Treatment for gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is normally treated using a combination of methods: medication and self-care, including diet and exercise.

  • Screenshot from video of how to test your glucose levels.

    Monitoring your own glucose levels

    If you have gestational diabetes, measuring your own blood glucose levels will become something you do regularly. It’s very important - it helps to guide your treatment and lifestyle, to reduce the risks for you and your baby.

  • Woman testing her glucose levels.

    Treatment - diabetes self-care

    Once you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need to monitor your blood glucose through each day. Depending on what your healthcare team have said, you may also be prescribed some tablets or insulin injections.

  • Woman's blood sugar levels being tested.

    Hypoglycaemia and pregnancy

    Hypoglycaemia happens when your blood glucose levels drop too low. This is more likely to happen if you treat your diabetes with insulin. If you treat your diabetes with diet or metformin alone, you are generally not at risk.

Last reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.

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