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November 17, 2023

Staying Active with Type 2 Diabetes: Why It Matters and How to Start with Nina Fombuh, FNP-BC

by Nina Fombuh, MSN, FNP-BC

Physical activity plays a crucial role in the management of Type 2 diabetes. Staying active offers a wide range of health benefits, from improving blood sugar control to enhancing cardiovascular health. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why staying active matters for those with Type 2 diabetes and provide practical tips on how to start and maintain an active lifestyle.

Why Staying Active Matters for Type 2 Diabetes

1. Improved Insulin Sensitivity:

Physical activity helps your body become more sensitive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, and enhanced sensitivity means your body can use insulin more effectively.

2. Better Blood Sugar Control:

Regular physical activity can lead to lower blood sugar levels and improved glycemic control. This is especially important for individuals with Type 2 diabetes, where blood sugar regulation is a key concern.

3. Weight Management:

Exercise can assist in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Excess body weight is a significant risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and weight management plays a vital role in diabetes management.

4. Cardiovascular Health:

Type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Regular physical activity can help reduce this risk by improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and reducing bad cholesterol levels.

5. Stress Reduction:

Exercise is known to reduce stress and improve mental well-being, which is important for overall health, especially for individuals with diabetes.

6. Enhanced Energy Levels:

Regular physical activity can boost your energy levels, making it easier to engage in daily activities and enjoy a more active lifestyle.

Getting Started with Exercise

Starting an exercise routine, especially if you’re not used to being physically active, may seem daunting. However, it’s essential to remember that small, gradual changes can have a significant impact. Here’s how to get started:

1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider:

Before starting any new exercise program, consult with your healthcare provider, especially if you have any medical conditions or concerns. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs.

2. Set Clear Goals:

Establish clear and achievable fitness goals. Whether it’s walking a certain number of steps each day, reducing your blood sugar levels, or simply improving your overall well-being, having goals can keep you motivated.

3. Start Slowly:

If you’re new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. You might begin with 10-15 minutes of light exercise and gradually build up to 30 minutes or more.

4. Choose Activities You Enjoy:

Find physical activities that you genuinely enjoy. Whether it’s walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, or gardening, pick something that you look forward to doing.

5. Make It a Routine:

Consistency is key. Schedule your workouts at the same time each day or week to establish a routine. It’s easier to stick with an exercise program when it becomes a regular part of your day.

6. Consider a Variety of Activities:

Incorporating a variety of physical activities can make your routine more interesting and effective. It also engages different muscle groups and reduces the risk of overuse injuries.

7. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels:

Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise. This can help you understand how different activities impact your blood sugar and make necessary adjustments.

8. Stay Hydrated:

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Dehydration can affect your performance and blood sugar levels.

9. Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body responds to exercise. If you feel dizzy, excessively fatigued, or experience unusual symptoms, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

10. Combine Aerobic and Strength Training:

Incorporate a mix of aerobic activities (e.g., walking, swimming) and strength training (e.g., lifting weights or resistance bands) into your routine. Strength training can improve muscle mass and enhance metabolism.

Tips for Staying Active

Once you’ve started your exercise routine, these tips can help you stay active and motivated:

1. Find an Exercise Buddy:

Working out with a friend or joining a group can provide motivation and make exercise more enjoyable.

2. Use Technology:

Consider using fitness apps or wearable devices to track your progress, set goals, and monitor your activity levels.

3. Make It Fun:

Find ways to make exercise fun. Play your favorite music, take your dog for a walk, or explore scenic walking trails.

4. Keep a Journal:

Keep a journal to record your workouts, track your progress, and celebrate your achievements.

5. Stay Informed:

Stay informed about diabetes and exercise by reading books, articles, or consulting with a healthcare provider or a certified diabetes educator.

6. Be Flexible:

Life can be unpredictable. Be flexible with your exercise routine and adapt it as needed to accommodate changes in your schedule.

7. Reward Yourself:

Reward yourself for reaching your fitness goals. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a healthy snack, a movie night, or a new workout outfit.

Staying active with Type 2 diabetes is not only possible but highly beneficial. Regular exercise can help improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. Remember to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program and start slowly, gradually building up your fitness level. Set clear goals, make it enjoyable, and stay consistent to reap the many rewards of an active lifestyle.

With the right mindset, motivation, and support, you can successfully incorporate exercise into your daily routine, making it an essential part of your diabetes management plan. Stay active, stay healthy, and enjoy a vibrant and fulfilling life.

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