Physical activity for type 2 diabetes

Exercise or physical activity is important, whether you have diabetes or not. There are many good reasons to exercise and do more activity. Being physically active can help you:

  • Keep a healthy weight or lose weight
  • Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Increase muscle strength and bone mass
  • Improve circulation
  • Improve mood, sleep and mental activity
  • Keep blood glucose levels in target range

For the person with type 2 diabetes, physical activity also helps the insulin that your body makes work better and lowers blood glucose levels. Some people may need less glucose lowering medication to prevent hypos so speak with your diabetes team.

In this 'Expert Update' clip, Adele Mackie, dietitian at Diabetes Victoria, discusses why regular physical activity is so important, and how it helps people with type 2 diabetes.

To view more clips from Adele and other diabetes experts, download the free RealTime Health type 2 diabetes app from the App Store or Google Play.

How much exercise is enough?

You need to exercise for a least 30 minutes on most days of the week. This can be broken down into shorter sessions of 10 -15 minutes each 2-3 times per day.

To lose weight, you need to exercise for at least 60 minutes on most days of the week.

It is important to make your activity fun to keep yourself motivated and not to give up. It is also important to make physical activity a regular part of your daily life. Try using the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the tram a stop earlier or park on the far side of the supermarket carpark.

Activity should be done at a moderate intensity that will increase both your heart and breathing rates. When you are working at a moderate intensity, you should still be able to talk, but be puffing too much to be able to sing.

There is new research that shows that sitting less and moving more are also very important for good health. Simple things like getting off the couch when watching TV and moving at every commercial break, or standing when answering a telephone call can help.

What you need to think about  before starting an exercise program

  • Have a check-up with your doctor and talk about your exercise plan
  • If you experience pain or discomfort to your chest or calves during exercise, stop and rest. Make sure that you have this checked out by your doctor before you start exercising again
  • Carry some form of identification on you in case you are injured or feel unwell
  • If you take diabetes medications or insulin that can cause hypoglycaemia, speak with your doctor or diabetes educator what you need to do to stay safe. Always carry jelly beans or glucose tablets with you in case your blood glucose level drops too low – hypoglycaemia. Stop and treat hypoglycaemia immediately.
  • If you experience hypoglycaemia during or after exercise you should talk with your doctor or diabetes educator. Your medication may need to be reviewed
  • Wear good quality, well-fitting, closed-in footwear as recommended by your podiatrist

More information
Find out more about the benefits of physical activity (PDF)