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What types of exercise do I need if I have type 2 diabetes?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Any kind of exercise will benefit you if you have type 2 diabetes. The important thing is to find an activity you enjoy and will do for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week or more. It will help lower blood sugar while helping you lose weight or maintain a normal weight.

Some sort of aerobic exercise, such as walking, is often recommended. If you have neuropathy in your feet, you might want to choose something like swimming or chair exercises that put less pressure on them. If you have high blood pressure or problems with your eyes from diabetes, you may want to stay away from weight lifting. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program to find the right activity for you.

If you have type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity helps lower your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also keeps your joints flexible, strengthens your heart and bones, tones your muscles and helps you deal with stress. Based on your goals, you'll want to plan a routine that can include these four kinds of activities:

  • being active throughout the day, such as gardening or taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing, swimming or riding a bicycle, working up to about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
  • strength training, such as lifting light weights a few times a week
  • stretching, as part of daily routine as well as before and after aerobic exercise

Ask your doctor about any diabetes complications before you start an exercise program. However, be assured that almost everyone can benefit from some form of physical activity, as long as it doesn’t increase your risk of injury.

Review your meal and exercise plan with your health care team to be sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals and you are replacing the fluids lost during exercise. If you are on a very-low-calorie diet (fewer than 800 calories a day), your provider may closely monitor your exercise and overall health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.