If you live with type 2 diabetes, exercising regularly can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight. It may also help you reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, and promote overall health.
Exercise can also help prevent the development of diabetes in people who have prediabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages people to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week.
According to the ADA, in the absence of contraindications, such as moderate to severe retinopathy, for example, it’s also important to do at least two sessions of strength training each week.
The benefits of exercising are independent of weight loss. However, compliance with an exercise program has to be consistent in order to see lasting results.
If you’re sedentary and considering starting an exercise program, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor first, to make sure there are no restrictions or special precautions. It’s always a good idea to start gradually and build up to your personal goal.
Not sure where to start? Here are 10 exercises that can help you reach your fitness goals.
You don’t need a gym membership or expensive exercise equipment to get moving.
If you have a supportive pair of shoes and a safe place to walk, you can start today. In fact, you can meet your recommended minimum target for aerobic fitness by going for a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week.
According to a 2014 review, walking can help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels and lose weight.
Roughly half of people with type 2 diabetes have arthritis. The two conditions have several risk factors in common, including obesity.
Diabetic neuropathy, a condition that occurs when the nerves become damaged, can also cause joint pain in people with type 2 diabetes.
If you have lower joint pain, consider choosing low-impact exercise. Cycling, for example, can help you meet your fitness goals while minimizing strain on your joints.
Aquatic activities provide another joint-friendly exercise option. For example, swimming, water aerobics, aqua jogging, and other aquatic activities can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a workout, while putting little stress on your joints.
If you find it hard to motivate yourself to exercise, it might help to join a recreational sports team. The opportunity to socialize with teammates and the commitment you make to them might help you find the motivation you need to show up each week.
Many recreational sports offer a good aerobic workout. Consider trying basketball, soccer, softball, pairs tennis, or ultimate frisbee.
Signing up for an aerobic dance or other fitness class might also help you meet your exercise goals. For instance, Zumba is a fitness program that combines dance and aerobic movements for a fast-paced workout.
A 2015 study found that women with type 2 diabetes were more motivated to exercise after taking part in Zumba classes for 16 weeks. Participants also improved their aerobic fitness and lost weight.
Weightlifting and other strengthening activities help build your muscle mass, which can increase the number of calories you burn each day. Strength training may also help improve your blood sugar control, reports the ADA.
If you want to incorporate weightlifting into your weekly exercise routine, you can use weight machines, free weights, or even heavy household objects, such as canned goods or water bottles.
To learn how to lift weights safely and effectively, consider joining a weightlifting class or asking a professional fitness trainer for guidance.
Weights aren’t the only tool that you can use to strengthen your muscles. You can also perform a wide variety of strengthening activities with resistance bands.
To learn how to incorporate them into your workouts, speak with a professional trainer, take a resistance band class, or watch a resistance band workout video.
In addition to increasing your strength, exercising with resistance bands may provide modest benefits to your blood sugar control, according to a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes.
In calisthenics, you use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles. Common calisthenic exercises include pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, and abdominal crunches.
Whether you choose to strengthen your muscles with weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight, try to work out every major muscle group in your body.
To give your body time to recover, take a day off from muscle-strengthening activities between each session of strength training, suggests the ADA.
Pilates is a popular fitness program that’s designed to improve core strength, coordination, and balance. According to a recent study of older women with type 2 diabetes, it may also help improve blood sugar control.
Consider signing up for a Pilates class at your local gym or Pilates studio. Many instructional videos and books are also available.
According to a 2016 review, yoga can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and weight. It might also help lower your blood pressure, improve the quality of your sleep, and boost your mood.
If you’re interested in trying yoga, sign up for a class at a local studio or gym. A trained professional can help you learn how to move from one pose to another, using the proper posture and breathing technique.
Regular physical activity is important, not only for managing type 2 diabetes but also for promoting your overall health.
If you have any other health conditions in addition to type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine. They can help you learn how to stay safe and minimize your risk of injury, while meeting your fitness goals.
For more tips on living with type 2 diabetes, download our free app, T2D Healthline. Not only can you find expert resources on type 2 diabetes, but we'll connect you with real people who understand what you're going through. Ask questions, seek advice, and build relationships with others who get it. Download the app for iPhone or Android.