Living with Diabetes

Types of Exercise for People with Diabetes

It is important to incorporate exercise into your daily routine in order to lower your blood sugar levels, promote cardiovascular fitness, prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes and its complications, and achieve a healthy weight and for an overall sense of well-being. Exercising for as little as 150 minutes per week is proven to have a positive impact on glycemic levels. The beneficial effects of exercise for people with Diabetes are seen with a consistent, long-term exercise program. The exercise regimen will have to be individualized and monitored. The three categories of exercise recommended for people with Diabetes are:

It is also a good idea to make a habit out of being extra active each day. This can be achieved by doing the housework, carrying shopping bags up the stairs, mowing the lawn, and cleaning the windows are examples of activities which can be incorporated into your daily life. Simply put, the less time you spend sitting down, the more rewards you will reap for your health.

Aerobic Exercise

Any kind of activity which raises the heart rate and makes you sweat for a sustained period of time is considered aerobic. Aerobic exercise is of particular importance in people with Type 2 Diabetes, because it reduces abdominal fat, which is a contributor to cardiovascular complications. People with Diabetes who have their blood sugar levels under control without any complications can usually take part in most types of aerobic exercise. These include:

Cycling and swimming are encouraged in people who have their foot placement and gait compromised as a result of loss of sensation in their feet. If you are used to leading a sedentary lifestyle, taking up a new activity can be challenging. Therefore, to help you stay motivated, try to choose an exercise or sport which you particularly enjoy and can perform comfortably. Aim for a duration of 30 minutes to begin with, including 10 minutes of warm-up, followed by 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and finally, 5 minutes of cool-down. Moderate intensity means that you are still able to hold a conversation whilst exercising. You may even split the session into three 10 minute sessions during the day.

Muscle Strengthening

Strength training exercises are aimed at developing and maintaining lean muscle mass, strengthening bones and improving balance and coordination. This type of training can be of particular benefit to the aging population by promoting flexibility and range of motion, hence reducing the chances of injury, leading to an enhanced quality of life. Strength training also assists in weight loss, because muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are not exercising. Light hand weights, resistance bands and weight machines can all be used for strength training. As a general guide, aim for light weight lifting 2-3 times a week to target all of your major muscle groups. Start with performing 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions using a weight which you cannot sustain for more than 8-10 repetitions. These sessions should be supervised and regularly assessed by a qualified personal trainer.


Stretching exercises can be employed to lower stress, improve flexibility, range of motion and to promote overall good physical health. They are best performed as cool down stretches, after an aerobic activity, when the muscles are warmed up. Aim to do stretching exercises at least twice a week, for 10 minutes per session. You can stretch your shoulders, upper arms and calves by holding the desired position for 10-30 seconds each. Avoid stretching to the point of pain. It is a good idea to go to yoga or pilates classes, as they use plenty of stretching techniques.

Exercises to Avoid

People who have complications as a result of their Diabetes are advised to avoid certain kinds of exercises which could worsen their condition. Those who have developed eye problems should steer away from lifting heavy weights, as this could increase the pressure in the blood vessels of the eye, causing bleeding. People who are experiencing numbness in their feet because of nerve damage may try swimming or cycling instead of walking. This is because the loss of sensation might worsen sores or blisters which develop during exercise. If these go unnoticed, they may turn into serious conditions, sometimes even leading to amputation. To ensure proper foot care, always wear cotton socks and comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Check your feet after exercise for any blisters or cuts, and seek medical attention if any problems develop.