Chances are that either you or someone you know has type 2 diabetes. The number of individuals in the United States with diabetes is staggering. Blood sugar control is key to proper diabetes management, and although there are many ways to ensure better control, regular exercise is a proven strategy recommended to keep blood sugar levels in balance.
A single exercise session can improve glucose control for up to 48 hours after exercise (1). Even short-term bouts of exercise, around 20 minutes, can improve the action of insulin for 24 hours (2). As such, daily exercise should be adopted as individuals work to control their blood glucose and manage diabetes symptoms.
Exercise Guidelines for Those With Diabetes
There are guidelines to exercise that most individuals with diabetes can follow. Regular moderate to high volumes of aerobic exercise, at least 150 minutes per week, have been associated with better health in individuals with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Increases in cardiorespiratory fitness, decreased insulin resistance, and improved lipid and blood pressure levels are common in diabetic individuals who regularly exercise.
Resistance exercise can also benefit those with diabetes. Regular resistance training, ideally two to three days per week, has been shown to improve glycemic control, insulin resistance, fat mass, blood pressure, strength, and lean body mass. Research has shown increases in strength of up to 50 percent in adults, along with improvements in blood glucose control for those who regularly participate in resistance exercise.
It is important to note that, in sedentary individuals, interruptions in prolonged sitting can improve blood sugar control. A good strategy for those who are sedentary is to begin by increasing unstructured physical activity. Three minutes of light walking and body-weight resistance exercises such as squats, every 30 minutes, and just 15 minutes of walking after a meal can lead to improvements in glycemic control. Adding several three- to 15-minute bouts of activity is an effective way to increase activity throughout the entire day.
Latest Diabetes Statistics
It is estimated that there are 30.3 million people with diabetes in the United States, according to the latest “National Diabetes Report” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (3). Roughly 90-95 percent of all cases are those with type 2 diabetes with the other 5 percent having type 1.
Type 2 diabetes results from a gradual loss of insulin secretion by the pancreas, usually also accompanied by insulin resistance. Lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, and family history are typically the main risk factors associated with type 2. Type 2 diabetes is usually preventable with proven lifestyle changes. Common complications from diabetes include heart problems, neuropathy, kidney disease, and blindness (4). For those with diabetes, there are measures that can be taken to improve glucose control, thereby minimizing complications.
The American Diabetes Association explains in its recent position stand regarding diabetes and physical activity, the adoption and maintenance of physical activity is critical for blood glucose control and overall health in those with diabetes. It’s important to have recommendations tailored to each person’s needs and goals since blood glucose management is dependent on a myriad of individual factors (2).
For the additional 84.1 million Americans with prediabetes, at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is recommended combined with weight-loss goals of 5-7 percent of initial body weight to prevent and delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals.
It’s always recommended to check with a doctor before starting any type of exercise program.
- Parker L, Shaw CS, Stepto NK, and Levinger I. Exercise and glycemic control: focus on redox homeostasis and redox-sensitive protein signaling. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017 May 5; 8: 87. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2017.00087.
- Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Yardley JE, et al. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016 Nov; 39: 2065-2079. doi: 10.2337/dc16-1728.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistics report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.
- Choby B. Diabetes update: prevention and management of diabetes complications. FP Essentials. 2017 May; 456: 36-40.