Diabetes has become a widespread epidemic, with complications from fluctuating blood sugar levels posing serious risks. Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle are often linked to type 2 diabetes. The best exercise regimen for type 2 diabetes is one that provides a holistic approach to managing the condition. Explore how exercise and mindful movement can help you prevent and manage Type 2 diabetes.

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, making it an increasingly important public health concern. This condition is primarily characterised by elevated blood sugar levels, which can result in symptoms such as increased thirst, hunger, and frequent urination. A combination of a well-balanced diet, exercise, and behaviour modification is often recommended as the initial course of action for individuals diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In fact, engaging in regular physical activity is considered a cornerstone in the management of Type 2 diabetes, alongside dietary adjustments. Let’s take a closer look at the link between exercise and Type 2 diabetes.

How Does Exercise Affect Blood Sugar?

Physically active adults have a reduced risk of developing the risk factors that may lead to Type 2 diabetes, including impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.

In our body, the pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone essential for processing carbohydrates from foods like rice or bread. The carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which provides energy for the body's cells, but only in the presence of insulin. In Diabetes, cells become less responsive to insulin, causing glucose to remain in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed by cells.

This is where exercise and type 2 diabetes are linked. Engaging in regular physical activity helps maintain optimal blood glucose levels, a state known as "glycemic control." Exercise not only improves insulin production but also helps regulate blood lipid profiles. However, it is important to note that consistent participation in exercise for Type 2 diabetes is critical for achieving and maintaining positive outcomes. You may also consult with your healthcare provider before making any large lifestyle changes.

Tips to Get Started with Exercises for Type 2 Diabetics

Exercises for Type 2 diabetics should be done by keeping a few tips in mind:

  1. Take one step at a time:

    If you’ve been living a sedentary life all this time, then suddenly switching to an intense exercise program can be hard. Give your mind and body time to adapt to your goals by starting small.
  2. Challenge yourself:

    If you’ve been following the same routine for several weeks now, then try increasing the intensity. This could be done by repeating the same exercise several times or trying to complete it in less time than usual.
  3. Be conscious of the effect:

    Since exercise tends to reduce blood glucose levels, you must be alert as to how your body is responding to it, especially if you are also dependent on external insulin along with oral medication.
  4. Carry a glucose-rich snack:

    While hyperglycemia is common in diabetics, in certain cases, prolonged exercises for Type 2 diabetics may sometimes cause symptoms of hypoglycemia (like dizziness, palpitation, trembling hands), due to increased glucose consumption for energy, or the absence of an energy source during strenuous exercise. As a precaution, it is always better to have a quick nutrient dense meal 1 to 2 hours well in advance and keep a fast-acting carbohydrate source close at hand during exercise.
  5. Pay attention to the established recommendations:

    The American Diabetes Association recommendations for exercise in Type 2 diabetes are as follows:

A) Aerobic exercise:

It consists of continuous, rhythmic movements that involve large groups of muscles, such as walking, jogging, and cycling.

  • At least 150 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous exercise is advised for diabetics.
  • Spread over 3 to 7 days/week, with no more than 2 consecutive days between exercise bouts.
  • Daily exercise is suggested to maximise insulin action.
  • Shorter durations (at least 75 minutes/week) of vigorous-intensity or interval training may be sufficient for younger and more physically fit patients.

B) Resistance exercise:

It is also referred to as strength training and involves movements utilising free weights, weight machines, bodyweight exercises, or elastic resistance bands.

  • Progressive, moderate to vigorous resistance training should be completed 2 to 3 times/week on nonconsecutive days.
  • At least 8 to 10 exercises, with completion of 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions

C) Flexibility and balance training:

They are recommended 2 to 3 times/week for older adults.
Participation in supervised training programs is recommended to maximise the health benefits of exercise in Type 2 diabetes.

Let’s explore the benefits of Type 2 diabetes physical exercises now.

Benefits of Exercise for Type 2 Diabetes

Here are some advantages of Type 2 diabetes physical exercises:

  • Improved blood sugar levels:

    Best exercises for diabetes Type 2 are typically a combination of different aerobic and resistance activities. They are known for their ability to improve blood glucose levels.
  • Better insulin action:

    Since diabetics show insulin resistance, a condition where the cells become unresponsive to insulin, exercise can make the cells sensitive to insulin and enhance its action over longer periods.
  • Weight management:

    Obesity, which contributes to uncontrolled blood sugar levels, results from an accumulation of excess fat on cells, rendering them less responsive to insulin. Engaging in regular exercise for Type 2 diabetes offers the dual advantage of facilitating weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight, ultimately enhancing blood sugar control.
  • Reduced cardiovascular risk:

    Regular physical activity is linked to improved heart function and may reduce the risk of heart conditions.

Fueling Your Workout: Smart Eating Tips for Before and After Exercise

Type 2 diabetes diet and exercise form different parts of a triad, with one dependent on the other. Attached below are a few meal recommendations to keep in mind when exercising with diabetes:

-   Pre-workout meal:

You must keep this as a light snack and avoid any fatty foods, as they make you sluggish. It is ideal to eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein, like:

-   Foods to consume after exercise:

Having burned calories, you may feel hungry immediately after exercise, and hypoglycemia may also set in in a few cases. Thus, make sure you're energised with the right food like:

-   Fluids:

No matter what kind of exercise you undertake, chances are you’ll be sweating it out. So ensure to stay hydrated during and after your workout. Some fluid options aside from water are:

Ensure to drink them fresh without the addition of sugar!


While physical activity plays a vital role in the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes, adherence to regular exercise remains a challenge for many individuals with this chronic condition. It's crucial to recognise the synergy between a Type 2 diabetes diet and exercise, as combining proper nutrition with physical activity enhances the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. Embracing exercises for Type 2 diabetics is a crucial lifestyle adjustment that offers the opportunity to maintain good health and manage blood sugar levels.