Athletics, Running and Diabetes: Guidance for Leaders, Coaches and Volunteers

England Athletics have been working closely with Diabetes UK to produce detailed guidance and information about diabetes to share with our run leaders, coaches and volunteers. The guidance document we have produced details what diabetes is, how it’s treated, signs and symptoms to look for and how to manage it when exercising. Crucial information to know and understand for anyone supporting athletes and runners with diabetes.

One in 15 people in the UK have diabetes, including one million people who have Type 2, but haven't been diagnosed. Having diabetes means blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) levels are too high. Everyone needs some glucose for energy, and we get glucose when our bodies break down the carbohydrates that we eat or drink. The glucose is then released into our blood and transported to the parts of our body that need it for energy. In diabetes, people can’t use the glucose properly, so it builds up in their blood. There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1

About 8% of people with diabetes in the UK have Type 1 diabetes, which has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle, it just happens. In Type 1 diabetes the body is unable to make any insulin at all, you get insulin into your body by injecting it, or using an insulin pump, which delivers a constant supply. Click here to read more about Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2

About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes the body either can’t make enough insulin or the insulin it does make doesn’t work properly. There are several risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, including being overweight, ethnicity, age and family history. Click here to read more about Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes

Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
  • Being really thirsty
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Cuts and wounds take longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

Exercise and diabetes

Exercise can have a positive impact on diabetes management, as well as your general wellbeing. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Helps to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol
  • Contribution to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercise can have a positive effect on your mood
  • It can help you relieve stress
  • Exercise can improve your sleep

Click here for more information on exercise and Type 1 diabetes

Click here for more information on exercise and Type 2 diabetes

Liz Purbrick, England Athletics Inclusion Manager, said:

‘Many of our run leaders, coaches and volunteers currently support athletes and runners with diabetes, and if not already there's a chance that they will at some point in future. Understanding what diabetes is, the signs and symptoms and how to manage it when exercising is so important. We encourage everyone to read, digest and share this guidance document, and to visit Diabetes UK website to further their knowledge and understanding.

‘Exercise can have a profound and positive impact on diabetes management, getting into running and athletics can help on many levels. At England Athletics, our vision and mission is to make athletics and running the most inclusive and popular sport in England, and it’s working in partnership with charities, such as Diabetes UK that will help us to achieve this.’

View and download our diabetes guidance document

England Athletics and Diabetes UK Guidance Document (PDF 337kB)

Thanks to Diabetes UK for providing the content for this article and guidance document. 


References and stats given throughout have been taken from Diabetes UK website, follow the links below for more information.

Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK - Type 1
Diabetes UK - Type 2
Diabetes symptoms