Type 1 diabetes is characterised by immune-mediated destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Significant beta cell function is usually present at the time of diagnosis with type 1 diabetes, and preservation of this function has important clinical benefits. The last 30 years have seen a number of largely unsuccessful trials for beta cell preservation, some of which have been of therapies that have potential for significant harm. There is a need to explore new, more tolerable approaches to preserving beta cell function that can be implemented on a large clinical scale. Here we review the evidence for physical exercise as a therapy for the preservation of beta cell function in patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. We highlight possible mechanisms by which exercise could preserve beta cell function and then present evidence from other models of diabetes that demonstrate that exercise preserves beta cell function. We conclude by proposing that there is now a need for studies to explore whether exercise can preserve beta cell in patients newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.