Fitness Articles

Exercising with Type 2 Diabetes

Manage Glucose, Lose Weight, and Reduce Complications

If your doctor has diagnosed you with Type 2 diabetes, then she has probably already told you about the importance of adding exercise to your treatment plan. Physical activity can help you improve your blood sugar control, lose weight, and reduce your risk of heart disease, peripheral artery disease and nerve problems that are often associated with diabetes. In many cases, the right combination of diet and exercise can even help eliminate the need for medication for people with Type 2 diabetes.

But before you get started, you need to understand how exercise influences blood glucose regulation, and how to avoid potential problems, minimize risks, and recognize when you may need to get additional information or support from your health care provider. *The general information in this article is not a substitute for talking to your health care provider before you begin an exercise program, or if you experience any problems in connection with your exercise.

How Exercise Benefits People with Type 2 Diabetes

In addition to boosting your energy levels, mood, and capacity to burn calories for weight loss, regular exercise can lead to the following benefits:
  • Improved blood sugar control by enhancing insulin sensitivity. Exercising on a regular basis makes muscles use insulin better. When muscles are able to use insulin better, they are able to pull more glucose from the bloodstream to use for energy. The more vigorously you exercise, the more glucose you’ll use, and the longer the positive effects on your blood glucose levels will last.
  • Increased insulin sensitivity. Type-2 diabetics who exercise regularly need less insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells that need it.
  • Reduced need for medication. Combined with a healthy eating plan, regular exercise can reduce—or even eliminate—the need for glucose-lowering medication in some people.
  • Reduced cardiovascular risks. Diabetes has negative effects on heart health, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Exercise reduces these risks by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reducing triglycerides in the blood stream. Physical activity also improves blood flow, increases your heart’s pumping power, and reduces blood pressure.
The Best Exercises for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Always discuss your exercise plan with your doctor before starting, especially if you’re taking medication or experiencing diabetes-related medical complications (discussed above and below).

Experts generally recommend that people with diabetes engage in moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise that lasts at least 30 minutes, on four or more days of the week.
  • Always warm up for at least five minutes before you exercise, and cool down for at least five minutes afterwards before you stop moving.
  • If it’s been a while since you’ve done much physical activity, and 30 minutes at a time is too much right off the bat, you can start with 10 minutes (or even less) and gradually increase your workout duration as you become more fit.
  • Moderately-intense cardio should elevate your heart rate to a level that is challenging, but not so difficult that you can’t do it for 30 minutes.
  • Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, climbing stairs, cross-country hiking, aerobics classes, cardio machines such as the elliptical, skating, tennis, and other sports.
  • If you pick activities that you enjoy, you'll be more likely to stick with your exercise plan.
  • Being active every day is better for you than doing more exercise on fewer days of the week, and scheduling your exercise at the same time of day can help with blood glucose control.
In addition, moderate strength training (except as noted below) and flexibility exercises are also highly beneficial. These exercises will help you better use your muscles without soreness and decrease your risk of injury.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • KOKO-Sky - the chart is linked to the last page of the article under: Carbohydrate Adjustments for Exercising Diabetics Chart - 7/24/2014 6:14:42 PM
    I was disappointed with the article did not include the refernced chart showing glucose levels, exercise before and after hypoglycemic examples. This is why I was reading the article as the information in the article was very basic and I cant say I learned anything that I didn't already know. - 7/24/2014 10:30:52 AM
    great article. I learned a lot. - 5/10/2014 1:44:20 AM
  • My GP told me I should be power walking every single day for at least an hour each time. Hmm!

    Thanks for this article - very informative.
    - 9/26/2013 9:13:50 PM
    My diabetic husband, 67, often works in the yard in the heat for hours at a time, not even stopping to eat or drink. It worries me sick, since I am at work and have no control over this craziness! I try to allow him to be responsible for his own diabetes control, but one of these days he will be in trouble and no one will be around to help. Diabetics,please think of your loved ones and seriously control your health. Life IS too short for carelessness! - 7/30/2013 5:43:11 PM
  • Love the article. - 7/25/2013 12:54:03 PM
  • good article! - 3/27/2013 5:54:36 PM
  • Thank you, finally a clear explanation from someone rather than what I have always read and heard from media and doctors. Just telling someone to exercise is not enough; it really helps to give explanations. - 3/27/2013 8:15:42 AM
    Best and easiest thing anyone can do with Type 2 is.....walk.
    Unplug, disconnect, open the door and...
    Get out.
    Simple, sensible, and practical.
    - 2/27/2013 1:11:53 PM
  • Good info. I knew alot of this but I learn some. I am checking our a gym ,but I am going to ask questions and talk to my doctor.reply to Alaskan, check with your insurance sometimes you don't nead referals. Some health departments offers classes. - 9/7/2012 9:09:08 PM
  • I originally read this article in 7/10, and came across it again. Glad to reread it--with diabetes we all benefit from reacquainting ourselves with what seems to be simple information--whic
    h I often ignore. Thanks for keep this in the cycle to 'must reads.' - 8/8/2012 2:50:17 PM
  • So, what is an example of a 'fast acting carbohydrate snack" ? - 7/26/2012 9:52:36 AM
    Good review of important information. Thanks! - 5/3/2012 4:41:46 PM
  • Very informative article, and a good reminder to keep being physically active! My doctor took me off all diabetes meds in the last year. It still takes discipline to get out there and take that walk though. It's so easy to slip back into being inactive. I'm glad Spring is just around the corner so I can get back to hiking! - 3/18/2011 7:28:34 AM
  • Great article. It isn't necessary to have diabetes for you to have damage to your body. Studies show now that PRE-diabetes is of a real concern for damage. That is why weight loss, exercise and proper diet is so important. - 6/11/2008 2:36:10 AM

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 10! Get a FREE Personalized Plan