Type 2 diabetes, when your body can no longer efficiently use the insulin it makes and may even stop producing insulin, is a common but not inevitable condition. Preventing and even reversing the onset of type 2 diabetes is possible — it just takes some commitment.

Taking charge of your health typically involves a two-pronged approach: diet and exercise. Both are crucial for long-term success and optimal health.

Diet and exercise are key components of a successful strategy to avoid or manage diabetes. Studies show that diet and exercise can sharply lower the likelihood of diabetes, even in people at high risk of developing it.

Other studies show that lifestyle interventions such as diet, exercise, and education can improve risk factors that are often associated with cardiovascular disease in individuals already living with type 2 diabetes, as well as help lower blood sugar levels.

So not only does eating a nutritious diet and getting enough physical activity help manage blood sugar if you already have type 2 diabetes, but it can also aid in weight loss and high cholesterol — issues often closely tied to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

Also, a major clinical study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases observed individuals at risk for diabetes for three years and found that including 150 minutes of exercise a week decreased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

This means sticking to physical activity and a nutritious diet may not only help you avoid or reverse a type 2 diabetes diagnosis now but in the future as well.

While diet can sometimes be tailored for you by a doctor or nutritionist (i.e., you can’t tolerate gluten, you prefer low carb, if you are a vegan, etc.), the kind of exercise that works for evading or managing type 2 diabetes is a bit broader.

Essentially: All exercise counts! Especially because doing something you enjoy helps you to stick with it. According to the American Heart Association, most adults need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both.

For instance, you could choose to go on two 30-minute powerwalks 2 days out of the week, combined with two 20-minute runs 2 other days of the week.

Keep in mind: Moderate aerobic exercise elevates your heart rate, so if it’s possible for you, make sure those powerwalks are brisk!

If moderate exercise isn’t possible, the American Diabetes Association says that even low-volume activity (expending just 400 kcal/week) improves insulin action in previously sedentary adults.

How to incorporate more physical activity into your day:

  • Consider parking as far from the door as you can on your next trip to the store.
  • Exercise adds up. If you can’t walk for 30 minutes, try three 10-minute walks a day.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you work at a desk, take a standing break every 15 minutes or so.
Was this helpful?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you’re living with type 2 diabetes, the effects of exercise on blood sugar can sometimes be immediate: Check your blood sugar before and after 20 to 30 minutes of heart-elevating activity, and you’ll likely see a lowered number.

Whether you’re attempting to avoid a type 2 diabetes diagnosis or trying to manage one, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program — especially if exercise hasn’t been a focus in your life until now. Depending on where you are with your diagnosis, there may be certain health issues to keep in mind.

While it’s true that any exercise that equals or exceeds 150 minutes a week is beneficial for people who want to avoid or manage type 2 diabetes, combing two specific types of exercise might be the most beneficial choice.

Aerobic exercise can be achieved through brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing, tennis, basketball, and more. Strength training, sometimes called resistance training, focuses more on building or maintaining muscle and can be achieved through body weight exercises or weights.

These exercise types are all helpful in managing blood sugar and lipid levels and encouraging weight loss on their own. Still, studies show that combining them may be the most effective exercise plan for controlling glucose and lipids in type 2 diabetes.

If you’re interested in an exercise program that combines aerobic activity and weight training, consider talking with a physical therapist or a certified trainer. They can help you find the classes or design a personal plan that helps you accomplish your goals.

Some people will find that committing to a routine exercise program mostly requires time management and determination. Others may need a little extra help staying motivated. Whichever category you’re in, finding the activities that bring you joy and help you feel encouraged are the right ones for you.

If you need even more incentive to incorporate physical activity into your life, a small study from 2008 suggests that when individuals with persistent feelings of fatigue finished working out, they felt less tired than fatigued individuals who have spent the same amount of time sitting on a couch. So even though exercising may seem like a chore at first, people who stick with it often find that they actually look forward to their activity fairly quickly.

Changing your lifestyle is not an easy thing. It can feel hard at first, and you may need to restart a few times. But the encouraging thing about type 2 diabetes is that it’s a chronic condition that can be avoided and even reversed with progressive lifestyle changes.