Type 2 Diabetes exercise

Appropriate exercise is beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients can not exercise blindly. They must exercise in a scientific and safe way.

Type 2 Diabetes exercise

What is Type 2 Diabetes and the Exercise Connection?

1. What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes refers to a type of diabetes that is mainly caused by insulin resistance or is accompanied by insufficient insulin secretion.

Type 2 diabetes features are:

  • Most of the patients are obese. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance. Therefore, patients with type 2 diabetes have high levels of insulin secretion in the early stage. This is associated with severe insulin resistance.
  • Patients with type 2 diabetes are generally not dependent on insulin when accepting treatment. This is because the pancreatic islets of type 2 diabetic patients can secrete insulin.
  • The symptoms of patients with type 2 diabetes are not particularly obvious at the time of onset. Many patients have no obvious clinical symptoms, but their blood sugar is already relatively high.

Thus, a good personal care is needed for type 2 diabetes patients, such as reasonable control of diet, self-provided sugar measuring instrument and exercise therapy. Among them, exercise therapy is more important and effective.

2. Why doing exercise is important to type 2 diabetes?

Regular exercise can help you lose weight, sleep better, and increase your strength. For people with diabetes, exercise can also control the disease. The main benefits of exercise for people with diabetes are:

Reduce blood sugar. Exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to changes in blood sugar levels. In addition, exercise may increase the utilization of glucose by muscles. Therefore, it can effectively improve glucose metabolism and lower blood sugar.

Lower blood lipids and blood pressure. Reasonable exercise can help lower blood pressure and blood lipids. This is because exercise can make our heart beat stronger, thereby increasing cardiac output. It is beneficial to lower blood pressure and relieve blood thickening. Exercise can control our weight and metabolism.

Lose weight. Most people with type 2 diabetes are obese. Rational physical exercise can promote the decomposition of visceral fat, reduce body weight and reduce insulin resistance. As a result, it can improve the efficacy of hypoglycemic drugs.

Helps with mental health. Exercise can relax the tension and improve the quality of life.

However, it must be in moderation, depending on the person. You can start exercising half an hour after a meal, but it is not advisable to overdo it. Patients cannot perform vigorous exercise. The standard is to sweat slightly.


People differ in physical fitness, and their condition is also different. Therefore, the suggestions given in this article are for reference only. If you want to find the exercise that suits you, it is best to seek help from your doctor based on your circumstances.

Type 2 Diabetes exercise

Exercises for people with type 2 diabetes

1. Walking

Walking is aerobic training that the whole body can participate in. Patients are easy to accept and can persevere in their daily life. Exercise intensity and amount are also easy to master and adjust.

30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Walking can help reduce excess fat, reduce insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, and improve blood lipids.

2. Cycling

This is a type of aerobic exercise. It has a good effect on the control of blood sugar in diabetic patients. In particular, cycling after a meal can increase the body’s consumption of blood sugar. It can significantly reduce blood sugar two hours after a meal. In addition, cycling can also increase blood circulation in the legs.

3. Swimming

Swimming is a recommended exercise method for people with diabetes. This is because swimming does not tax the joints of people with diabetes. As a typical aerobic exercise, swimming can burn the patient’s fat to the greatest extent. Swimming can help improve insulin resistance in people with diabetes.

In addition, swimming can exercise the muscles of the patient’s body. This can further improve the insulin sensitivity of the patient’s muscle tissue. Regular exercise is of great significance to the patient’s disease control.

4. Team sports

Team sports such as football, basketball, and other ball games have many benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. Participating in team sports can help patients mediate their emotions and stabilize their condition. Diabetic patients with good physical fitness can participate in team sports, but it is not advisable to consume too much physical strength to avoid hypoglycemia.

Basketball games are competitive, confrontational, and fast. Therefore, basketball requires resourcefulness and teamwork. Watching a wonderful basketball game or playing for a while is undoubtedly a kind of enjoyment in life. It also can modulate the mood of diabetic patients.

5. Aerobic dance

Studies have found that dancing helps prevent type 2 diabetes. The researchers led the test children to dance in the gym for an hour a week for a month. It was found that during the dance training period, the number of daily walks the children took doubled.

The researchers said that dancing can effectively increase children’s physical activity, thereby controlling children’s body obesity. Obesity is one of the key risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Therefore, dancing can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

6. Weightlifting

There is growing evidence that weight training is highly effective in both preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. Research shows that lifting weights can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by a third.

Aerobic exercise is essential for preventing type 2 diabetes, but many people have difficulty participating in or maintaining it. These new results suggest that weight training can largely be used as an alternative to aerobic exercise for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

7. Resistance band exercises

Resistance training with elastic bands is not disturbed by external factors such as weather and location. Through a series of standardized movements, the muscles of the whole body can be fully mobilized to participate in the training. The blood sugar can be effectively reduced in this way. Long-term training 2-3 times a week can also increase muscle mass and improve muscle strength, physical mobility, and flexibility.

8. Pilates

Older friends with type 2 diabetes need to focus on training that can enhance joint mobility. Whether doing flexibility training alone or in combination with resistance training can improve joint mobility in people with type 2 diabetes.

In addition to traditional static and dynamic stretching, Pilates can help lower blood sugar and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. This aids in weight loss and neurological symptoms, improving quality of life. Therefore, if you can move more, don’t sit for a long time.

9. Yoga

Strength training can improve overall body balance and gait, and reduce the risk of falls in people with type 2 diabetes. In particular, older adults with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of falls, even if their leg strength has not changed significantly. Therefore, doing more balance exercises at home can help reduce your risk of falling.

Yoga includes basic stretching and strength exercises. It can improve overall blood sugar, lipids, and body composition in people with type 2 diabetes. Yoga is a balanced practice. There is no intensity or duration setting. You can do yoga at least 2-3 days a week.

Exercise training table

The table below is from ACSM. The table recommends some types of training suitable for adults with type 2 diabetes and gives corresponding exercise guidance.

TABLE – Recommended types of exercise training for all adults with T2D.【1】

Type of TrainingTypeIntensityFrequencyDurationProgression
AerobicWalking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aquatic activities, rowing, dancing, interval training40%–59% of V˙O2R or HRR (moderate), RPE 11–12; or 60%–89% of V˙O2R or HRR (vigorous), RPE 14–173–7 d·wk−1, with no more than 2 consecutive days between bouts of activityMinimum of 150–300 min·wk−1 of moderate activity or 75–150 min of vigorous activity, or an equivalent combination thereofThe rate of progression depends on baseline fitness, age, weight, health status, and individual goals; gradual progression of both intensity and volume is recommended
ResistanceFree weights, machines, elastic bands, or body weight as resistance; undertake 8–10 exercises involving the major muscle groupsModerate at 50%–69% of 1RM, or vigorous at 70%–85% of 1RM2–3 d·wk−1, but never on consecutive days10–15 repetitions per set, 1–3 sets per type of specific exerciseAs tolerated; increase resistance first, followed by a greater number of sets, and then increased training frequency
FlexibilityStatic, dynamic, or PNF stretching; balance exercises; yoga, and tai chi increase the range of motionStretch to the point of tightness or slight discomfort≥2–3 d·wk−1 or more; usually done when muscles and joints are warmed up10–30 s per stretch (static or dynamic)group; 2–4 repetitions of eachAs tolerated; may increase the range of stretch as long as not painful
BalanceBalance exercises: lower body and core resistance exercises, yoga, and tai chi also improve balanceNo set intensity≥2–3 d·wk−1 or moreNo set durationAs tolerated; balance training should be done carefully to minimize the risk of falls

1RM, 1-repetition maximum; HRR, heart rate reserve; PNF, proprioceptive neuromotor facilitation; RPE, rating of perceived exertion; V˙O2R, V˙O2 reserve.

Tips for safe exercising with type 2 diabetes

1. Check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise

Check your blood sugar before exercising to see if your blood sugar is stable. Strenuous exercise should not be performed with low blood sugar. In the case of low blood sugar, do not do strenuous exercise, such as running, swimming, skipping rope, etc. The body with low blood sugar is relatively weak, and if you do strenuous exercise, you may experience dizziness and fainting.

Also, measure your blood sugar after exercising. After exercising, you can measure your blood sugar after resting for half an hour, so that your blood sugar will not be affected by exercise.

2. Carry carbs

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. For example, the sugars that provide the body with the main energy source come from carbohydrates. Sufficient carbohydrates must be added before exercise. It is to store enough energy for exercise. People with type 2 diabetes will experience symptoms of hypoglycemia if they do not exercise enough energy.

3. Avoid sudden strenuous exercise

Strenuous exercise is generally not recommended for people with diabetes. This is because the consumption of sugar increases significantly. For many diabetic patients, especially those with type 2 diabetes, it is very easy to lead to hypoglycemia. In severe cases, the patient may even fall into a coma.

4. Drink plenty of fluids during and after exercise to prevent dehydration

Rehydration after exercise requires replenishment of water, electrolytes, glucose, and alkaline substances. Exercising makes people sweat a lot and lose fluids. If fluids are not replenished in time, it is easy to cause dehydration in the human body. Especially after heavy exercise, if you don’t rehydrate in time, your heart rate and body temperature may increase, and dehydration may occur. In severe cases, the patient may even fall into a coma.

5. Stop if something suddenly hurts

The location of the injury has a certain relationship with the sports, special skills, and characteristics, such as abrasions, sprains, contusions, and so on. If you do not stop exercising at this time, these symptoms will be aggravated and the complications will be more serious. Patients may experience severe pain, such as more obvious bleeding, and even lead to hemorrhagic shock, and limb joint dysfunction.

Recommended Liquids for Exercise with Diabetes

1. Water

After a lot of exercises, especially in summer or in a hot and humid environment, pay attention to hydration because you will sweat a lot during exercise. If you don’t replenish water in time, it will cause dehydration and even heatstroke.

Drink 150-200ml of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. The total water intake per hour shall not exceed 600ml. This can not only maintain the balance of water in the body but also will not increase the burden on the heart and stomach due to drinking a lot of water.

2. Sports beverages

Drinking sports beverages 1-2 hours before exercise can store enough sugar in the body. Drinking during exercise can delay fatigue and prolong exercise time.

Drinking sports drinks after exercise can effectively supplement the body with sugar, water, trace elements, etc. Therefore, it can replenish energy and eliminate fatigue.

3. Milk-based drinks

It is recommended to drink milk-based drinks immediately after strength training. The high-quality protein contained in milk-based drinks aids in muscle recovery. The calcium and vitamin D they contain strengthens bones. At the same time, drinking milk-based drinks also helps lose excess fat.

4. Caffeine

Caffeine is a beneficial substance for humans. Not only does caffeine improve mental alertness and emotional state, but it also improves athletic performance. Drinking a cup of coffee every morning can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Consuming caffeine before exercise can dramatically reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. Caffeine increases the rate of glucose absorption, fueling working muscles faster. Therefore, caffeine intake can effectively delay fatigue.

Type 2 Diabetes exercise


1. Which exercises should people with diabetes avoid?

Diabetic patients should not engage in strenuous and overloaded exercise. At the same time, they should not choose sports that are irritating and stress-prone. These exercises include sprints, throws, high jumps, long jumps, tug-of-war, push-ups, diving, and more.

2. How much exercise should a Type 2 diabetic have a day?

People with diabetes should exercise three times a day. The time for each exercise is within two hours after meals. Exercise can regulate the intestines and treat habitual constipation in diabetic patients. More importantly, it keeps blood sugar stable while reducing insulin resistance. Especially for type 2 diabetes, the effect is more significant. It can reduce abdominal swelling and abdominal obesity. It has great benefits for controlling blood sugar and regulating blood lipids.

3. What should I eat before and after exercise?

Diabetics can eat eggs and drink milk before exercising to prevent hypoglycemia due to insufficient energy during exercise.

After exercising with type 2 diabetes, eat more calcium-containing foods, such as kelp and pork ribs. In addition, selenium-containing foods are also preferred by patients, such as fish, mushrooms, and sesame seeds.

4. How often should I exercise?

The frequency of exercise in people with type 2 diabetes varies from person to person. Some people may exercise three times a week, while others may exercise five times a week. Therefore, it can be arranged according to the actual situation. Under normal circumstances, three to four times a week of exercise is appropriate.

5. Can diabetes be cured by exercise?

Exercise is therapeutic for diabetes. But simply through exercise, not all patients can keep blood sugar stable.

Exercise can effectively control the development of diabetes. Especially for some obese diabetic patients, exercise can effectively lose weight and enhance insulin sensitivity in the patient’s body. It is very helpful for blood sugar control and weight loss. Meanwhile, exercise can also help our body metabolize and consume part of fat and energy, reducing the storage of sugar in the body. Therefore, exercise therapy is a must for diabetic patients.


In general, exercise can cure type 2 diabetes. However, if the diabetes is particularly severe, the treatment effect is not good only by exercising. If the blood sugar level is particularly high, you need to take some blood sugar lowering drugs. It is also necessary to formulate some dietary plans suitable for diabetics. Under the guidance of professional doctors, patients can effectively prevent blood sugar from rising again.