Being Active

Being Active When You Have Type 2 Diabetes

Are you interested in feeling better, moving better, and getting a good night’s sleep? According to experts, every bit of physical activity contributes to improved health, even if it’s just a few minutes each day! Engaging in regular physical activity offers numerous benefits, including enhancing your body’s insulin utilization and helping you burn extra calories to manage your weight. Remarkably, even a single session of aerobic exercise can lead to significant improvements in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and insulin effectiveness, and these positive effects can last for up to 24 hours or more!

Getting Started

Keep It Simple

Simply reduce your sitting time and increase your activity levels! Whether it’s walking to the mailbox, taking your dog for a stroll, dancing in the kitchen, or opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, there are numerous opportunities to incorporate movement into your daily routine. Remember, every little bit counts and adds up to a healthier you.

Talk with Your Doctor

Before embarking on a new exercise regimen, it’s essential to have a conversation with your healthcare provider. Take the opportunity to inquire whether any diabetes medications you’re taking might lead to low blood glucose levels or hinder weight loss efforts. Additionally, seek guidance on whether there are any specific exercises you should steer clear of for your individual health needs. Your healthcare provider can offer valuable insights to ensure your exercise plan aligns with your overall wellness goals.

Build a Plan

Feel free to request a meeting with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) or other members of your healthcare team who possess expertise in diabetes management. They can provide you with comprehensive guidance on your dietary choices, exercise routines, and your overall diabetes care plan. This collaborative approach ensures that you receive tailored advice and support to help you effectively manage your diabetes.

Blood Glucose

Educate yourself on the timing for monitoring your blood glucose levels and the appropriate steps to take if the readings fall either too low or too high. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms indicative of low blood glucose and be prepared to respond effectively if such an occurrence occurs. Understanding these crucial aspects of diabetes management is vital to your overall well-being.

Diabetes Tips and Cautions

Maintain a Record
Keep a detailed log of your exercise routines, blood glucose readings, meals, and medication intake. This practice will aid you in understanding how to effectively manage your blood glucose levels within the desired target range.
Types of Diabetes Drugs
It’s worth noting that many diabetes medications typically do not lead to low blood glucose levels, which means you may not require additional snacks before or after physical activity.
Medications and Low Blood Glucose
However, specific diabetes drugs, such as insulin and sulfonylureas, have a higher likelihood of causing low blood glucose. If you are prescribed these medications, it’s crucial to communicate any episodes of low blood glucose to your healthcare provider. They can work with you to make necessary adjustments to ensure your safety.
Addressing Low Blood Glucose
In the event you suspect low blood glucose (characterized by symptoms like shaking, excessive sweating, or loss of coordination), promptly check your glucose levels. If low, take 15 grams of carbohydrate. It’s advisable to carry glucose tablets, a sugary beverage, or hard candy with you as a precautionary measure.
Managing Diabetes
Diabetes can have implications for various aspects of your health, including nerves, eyes, kidneys, and the heart. Consequently, your exercise plan may need modifications. It’s essential for individuals with diabetes to prioritize good foot and skin care, undergo regular dilated eye exams, and maintain regular medical check-ups to monitor and manage these potential complications.

Aerobic Activity

Enhance Cardiovascular Fitness: Aerobic exercise elevates your heart rate and breathing, promoting cardiovascular health. Aim to gradually reach a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activities, such as brisk walking, light cycling, or water-based exercises, or opt for vigorous activities like jogging, playing singles tennis, or hiking on inclines. This commitment will not only enhance your body’s glucose management but also boost your endurance and overall heart health.


Any rhythmic, continuous activity

How Often?

3-7 Days/week

How hard?

Fairly light to somewhat hard

How much?

Start with a few minutes. Gradually build up to 30-60 minutes over the day.
Remember: Fit in 5 or 10 minutes here and there. Or go for 20-30 minutes. Be active however and wherever you can. To lose weight, do twice as much activity

Aerobic Activity Cautions

To stay safe and injury free:

  • Start with light to medium effort.
  • Gradually increase your pace and time spent being active. Start low and go slow!
  • Warm up and cool down at an easy pace before and after exercise.

Strength Training

Importance of Strength Training: For individuals living with diabetes, incorporating strength training into your routine is highly beneficial as it promotes muscle development. Muscle tissue plays a significant role in the regulation of blood glucose levels, and you need not aspire to become a bodybuilder to reap the rewards! Furthermore, engaging in strength training can enhance your ability to perform everyday tasks such as lifting laundry baskets or tackling yardwork with greater ease and safety.


Hand weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or your own body (for example, kitchen counter push-ups or chair squats)

How Often?

2-3 Days/week
*Rest day in between!

How hard?

Start with light effort. Build up to medium or hard effort.

How much?

10-15 repetitions to start (for each major muscle group) Build up to 8-10 reps of challenging effort.
Remember: If you need it, get help from a certified exercise professional. They can teach you the right way to do exercises and how to breathe properly.

Strength Training Cautions

  • Slowly increase how much you lift and how often.
  • Avoid straining or holding your breath when lifting. This causes your blood pressure to go up.
  • If you have severe diabetic retinopathy, don’t lift heavy weights.

Other Types of Physical Activity

Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi

All help with balance, strength and relaxation and can lower your blood glucose

Take more steps

Use a smart phone or an activity tracker to measure your progress and stay motivated. Count your steps daily for the first week. Slowly build up to 7,000-9,000 steps/day.


Stretch your muscles 2-3 days/week to the point of feeling tightness. Hold for 10-30 seconds (30- 60 seconds for older adults). For example, stretch your calves or the back of your thighs


Exercises may include standing on one foot, walking on a line, or using a balance board. Train in an uncluttered area and use a chair or wall for support if needed.

More Help

For more information, go to the American Diabetes Association website:

Go to to find an ACSM certified exercise professional near you.


Type 2 diabetes affects millions of individuals and their families, workplaces, and the U.S. health care system.


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