Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is a key part of managing diabetes along with proper meal planning, taking medications as prescribed, and stress management.

When you are active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin so it can work more efficiently. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise.

Physical activity is also important for your overall well being, and can help with many other health conditions.

Benefits of Regular physical activity:

  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Burns calories to help you lose or maintain weight
  • Increases your energy for daily activities
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Relieves stress
  • Strengthens your heart and improves your blood circulation
  • Strengthens your muscles and bones
  • Keeps your joints flexible
  • Improves your balance to prevent falls
  • Reduces symptoms of depression and improves quality of life

Types of exercise:

Two types of physical activity are most important for managing diabetes: aerobic exercise and strength training.

  • Aerobic Exercise:

    Aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin better. It makes your heart and bones strong, relieves stress, improves blood circulation, and reduces your risk for heart disease by lowering blood glucose and blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels.

    Recommended: Aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week or a total of 150 minutes per week. Spread your activity out over at least 3 days during the week and try not to go more than 2 days in a row without exercising.

    Note: Moderate intensity means that you are working hard enough that you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. Vigorous intensity means you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath during the activity.

    Examples of aerobic activities:

    • Lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke
    • Brisk walking (outside or inside on a treadmill)
    • Brisk walking (outside or inside on a treadmill)
    • Dancing
    • Low-impact aerobics
    • Swimming or water aerobics
    • Playing tennis
    • Stair climbing
    • Jogging/Running
    • Hiking
    • Rowing
    • Ice-skating or roller-skating
    • Cross-country skiing
    • Moderate-to-heavy gardening
  • Strength Training

    Strength training (also called resistance training) makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood glucose.

    It helps to maintain and build strong muscles and bones, reducing your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
    The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn – even when your body is at rest.

    Preventing muscle loss by strength training is also the key to maintaining an independent lifestyle as you age.

    Recommended : Doing some type of strength training at least 2 times per week in addition to aerobic activity.

    Examples of strength training activities:

    • Lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke
    • Weight machines or free weights at the gym
    • Using resistance bands
    • Lifting light weights or objects like canned goods or water bottles at home
    • Calisthenics or exercises that use your own body weight to work your muscles (examples are pushups, sit ups, squats, lunges, wall-sits and planks)
    • Classes that involve strength training
    • Other activities that build and keep muscle like heavy gardening
  • Yoga

    A number of studies show that if you have diabetes, yoga can benefit you in several ways.

    Yoga can help lower body fat, fight insulin resistance, and improve nerve function — all important when you have type 2 diabetes

    Yoga is also a great diabetic stress reducer.

    One of the advantages of yoga as an exercise is that you can do it as often as you like.

  • Tai chi

    Tai chi, a series of movements performed in a slow and relaxed manner over 30 minutes, has been practiced for centuries.

    At least one small study has confirmed it is an excellent choice of exercise for type 2 diabetes.

    Tai chi is ideal for people with diabetes because it provides fitness and stress reduction in one.

    Tai chi also improves balance and may reduce nerve damage, a common diabetic complication, although the latter benefit remains unproven.

Be More Active Throughout the Day:

In addition to formal aerobic exercise and strength training, there are many chances to be active throughout the day.

Remember – the more you move, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to keep your blood glucose levels in on target!

More and more research is finding that sitting too much for long periods of time is harmful to our health.

Just getting up once an hour to stretch or walk around the office is better than sitting for hours on end in a chair. Take every opportunity you can to get up and move.

Here are just a few ways you can do it:

  • At Work

    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator at the office and in the parking garage
    • Get up once an hour while you are at work and take a quick walk around your office
    • Stand up and stretch at your desk
    • If you go out for lunch, walk to the restaurant
    • If you take public transportation to work, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to your office
    • Use a speaker or mobile phone so you can pace around your office during conference calls
    • Try some chair exercises during the day while at your desk
  • At Home

    • Take the dog for a walk around the block
    • Do your own yard work such as mowing the lawn or raking leaves
    • Do your own housework such as vacuuming, dusting, or washing dishes
    • Play with the kids – play catch or throw the Frisbee around
    • Walk in place during the commercials of your favorite television show
    • Carry things upstairs or from the car in two trips instead of one
    • Walk around the house or up and down stairs while you talk on the phone


  1. What is beneficial – yoga / walk / gym?
    Any form of physical activity is good as long as you doing it sincerely. Some exercises / asana are restricted considering the complications one has. One should check with the physiotherapist for the same.
  2. What type of walk should be done? Fast or slow?
    Ideally brisk or fast walk is the right approach. But every patient has individual needs, so one should seek permission from his doctor accordingly.
  3. I cannot walk due to joint pains? What can I do compensate?
    Doing exercises with hand weights, elastic bands, or stretches three times a week builds muscle. When you have more muscle and less fat, you’ll burn more calories because muscle burns more calories than fat. Strength training can help make daily chores easier, improving your balance and coordination, as well as your bones’ health.
  4. I feel very weak while I go for a walk? What should I do?
    One should check blood glucose values before you leave for walk. If lower than 100mg/dl, one should eat a fruit or Milk based food and then go.
  5. How exercise helps in controlling diabetes?
    Exercise is a powerful tool for controlling your diabetes.
  • It helps your cells take in glucose by making insulin more effective and keep your blood sugar at normal levels.
  • It helps in maintain weight.