Physical activity and exercise in type 2 diabetes

Regular physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes and improves fitness, health and wellbeing in many ways. It:

  • reduces blood glucose levels because the cells of the body take up glucose from the blood during exercise
  • helps with weight loss for people who are overweight, and increases the amount of active muscle tissue (aim for a body mass index [BMI] of less than 25)
  • lowers the amount of fat and cholesterol in the blood
  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves the health of the heart and circulatory (cardiovascular) system.

About 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on 5 or more days per week is recommended for most adults. Many people will need to work up to this goal gradually — the important thing is to get started.

Aerobic exercise that increases heart rate, such as a brisk walk or climbing the stairs, and resistance exercises involving lifting moderate weights (8–10 repetitions) are recommended.

Read or download our fact sheet Managing type 2 diabetes — your lifestyle to find out simple but effective lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health and help manage your diabetes, as well as helping to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels as close as possible to your target range.

It’s important when starting an exercise program that your blood glucose levels and any diabetes-related complications (e.g. any foot problems and high blood pressure) are being managed by a health professional.

An exercise physiologist can provide advice on suitable exercises for people with diabetes and help you get started. Your doctor can refer you to an exercise physiologist. To find an exercise physiologist near where you live, go to the Exercise and Sports Science Australia website.

More in-depth information on physical activity for adults, children, teenagers and older people is available in the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing’s National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians.

For more information on what is considered moderate exercise, and how much we need to do, watch the video below.

©2011 Tonic

For more information on how having a healthy lifestyle helps you to manage your diabetes and helps your medicines to work better, watch this video.

©2009 NPS and Diabetes TASMANIA