If pre-diabetes has you worried about what the future holds, here's some good news. An exercise program can be your ticket back to good health. Exercising can help those with diabetes maintain better blood sugar controls.

Some 11 percent of the people who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes go on to get full-blown diabetes, explains Dr. Susan Spratt, an endocrinologist at Duke Medical Center.

"We can prevent this from happening with about a 5 to 10 percent weight loss," she says. "So if you weigh 200 pounds and you lose just 20 pounds, it's enough so that you won't go from pre-diabetes to frank diabetes."

Physical activity helps your body process blood glucose more effectively, explains Kelly O'Connor, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Mercy Medical Center.

"Exercise helps get the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells," she explains. "I encourage people to begin with walking, and to gradually increase the frequency and intensity of their walks."

O'Connor recommends a goal of 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity between five and seven times a week.

If you already have diabetes and you have a higher-than-usual blood glucose level after eating, take a brisk 20 to 30-minute walk, O'Connor suggests. "This helps your body to burn up the excess sugar faster," she explains.

For those with diabetes, experts recommend about 2 ½ hours per week of moderately intense exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fast walking, bicycling and swimming all are recommended.

Before You Start a Fitness Program...

  • Be sure to get your doctor's okay to begin exercising, especially if you have not exercised in awhile.
  • Tell your health care provider what exercises you are planning to do and ask how exercise might impact any medications you're taking, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • If you have diabetes, test your blood sugar 30 minutes before exercising and again immediately afterward, says the Mayo clinic. This way you will know if your blood sugar level is rising, falling or stable.
  • If your blood sugar is lower than 100 mg, eat a small snack that contains carbohydrates before you start to work out, says the Mayo Clinic. Fruit and crackers both make good pre-workout snacks.

The safe pre-exercise blood sugar range for people with diabetes is 100 to 250 mg. If you have a blood sugar of 250 mg or higher, test your urine for ketones. Exercising with a high ketone level puts you at risk for ketoacidosis, a serious diabetes complication. Wait to exercise until you test again and have a low level of ketones, according to the Mayo Clinic.