Staying active with gestational diabetes

If you have gestational diabetes, exercise can help you manage your condition.

If you have gestational diabetes, exercise can help you manage your condition by reducing your blood sugar (glucose) levels.

Physical activity lowers your blood sugar level, as your muscles use it for energy. It also helps the body to use the hormone insulin (which lowers blood sugar) more effectively. So, regular exercise can be a good way to help manage gestational diabetes.

Safe exercise in pregnancy

Exercise while pregnant is not dangerous for your baby. Some people worry about their baby being shaken around while they exercise, but this isn’t the case. Your baby is safe and secure in your womb, as long as you don’t knock your bump.

If you were active before you got pregnant, you should aim to keep the same level of fitness. You may find you slow down a bit towards the end of pregnancy as your bump grows.

If you’re not very active, the thought of starting can be daunting. But you don’t need to join a gym or pay for exercise classes. Start slowly, and with something gentle. Try to do a little every day. Swimming, pregnancy yoga, or walking after meals can be a good way to start.

As a rule, you should still be able to talk as you exercise. If you get breathless, you’re pushing yourself too hard. Don’t overdo it. Take breaks so that you do not become exhausted. Discuss your plans for exercise with your healthcare team. They can advise you on what to do, how often, and for how long.

How much exercise should you do?

There are two types of activity that you should do: 

  • Moderate intensity activity – at least 150 minutes a week of this (about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), unless you’re advised not to by your healthcare team. Examples include fast walking and cycling.
  • Strength exercises – on at least 2 days a week. Examples include using weights or elastic resistance bands.

Find out more about how active you should be in pregnancy.

Learn about what types of exercise you can do when pregnant.

Avoid sitting down as much as possible

Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting down can help. This can be hard if you work in an office or feel very tired. But you could try:

  • walking or cycling to work
  • standing on the bus or train (if safe to do so), or getting off a stop early
  • walking to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling
  • setting a reminder on your phone to stand and move about every so often
  • taking the stairs instead of the lift
  • heading to the park during your lunch break
  • walking any other children to school, nursery or toddler group.

It’s most important to move about after meals, as this will help to bring down your blood sugar levels after eating.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels

Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) mainly affects people who had diabetes and used insulin before they got pregnant. But it can affect you if you have gestational diabetes too. 

Exercising hard or for a long time can cause low blood sugar, so try eating a healthy snack (fruit, yoghurt or 2 to 3 wholewheat crackers or oatcakes) before or after an intense work out.

If you take insulin and get symptoms of low blood sugar when you exercise, your healthcare team might ask you to monitor your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. This will help you to know how exercise affects your blood sugar. 

Staying well after your baby is born

Gestational diabetes often goes away once your baby is born. However, some people do still have high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) for weeks or months after the birth. Even if your blood sugar levels return to normal, you have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight are 2 of the best things you can do to manage your glucose better and reduce your chances of diabetes in the future. 

If you had a straightforward birth, you can start gentle exercises like walking, pelvic floor exercises and tummy exercises as soon as you feel ready. If you had a complicated birth or a c-section, talk to your midwife, health visitor or a GP first.

Get tips on managing your diet if you have gestational diabetes.

NICE (2020) Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period. NICE guideline 3. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024) (Page last reviewed 16/12/2020) 

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Diabetes UK (2021) Gestational diabetes - Information for you. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024) (Page last reviewed 09/2021)

Department of Health and Social Care (2019) UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024) (Page last reviewed 07/09/2019)

NHS (2023) Exercise in pregnancy. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024) (Page last reviewed 15/03/2023. Next review due 15/03/2025)

Diabetes UK (nd.) Treatments for gestational diabetes: Activity. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024)

NHS (2022) Keeping fit and healthy with a baby. Available at: (Accessed 27 March 2024) (Page last reviewed 06/12/2022. Next review due 06/12/2025)


Review dates
Reviewed: 27 March 2024
Next review: 27 March 2027