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Exercise / physical activity, combined with dietary changes has been shown to delay the progression from “pre-diabetes” to diabetes. The main reasons are weight loss (which reduces insulin resistance) achieved by reduced calorie intake (energy intake) and physical activity. The weight loss and actual exercise helps your body use the insulin better, and helps to improve insulin resistance.

People with established type 2 diabetes will benefit from regular physical activity as exercise can assist with managing your blood sugar (glucose) levels, reducing cardiovascular risk, and may reduce medication doses.   Physical activity also releases endorphins - the “feel good” hormones, and thus assists with symptoms of depression, and improves overall wellbeing.

Although exercise / physical activity is important you need to check with your doctor first if it’s safe for you to exercise. Your doctor will check if your blood sugar (glucose) levels are controlled, will check your blood pressure as well as any other aspects of your health that he feels are important to check, he will then give you advice on the best type of exercise program for you to start with.

Some points to take note of before exercising:

  • You are at increased risk of hypoglycaemia if pre-exercising blood sugar (glucose) levels are less than 6.6mmol/l. A carbohydrate snack should be consumed prior to exercise if you are taking sulphonylureas (tablets that help your beta-cells to make insulin) and or insulin injections. This does need to be individualised depending on your requirements, the type of exercise you are doing, and for how long and how hard. 
  • If blood glucose levels are greater than 14mmol/l, it may not be advisable to exercise, and you should rather check with your doctor and get the appropriate advice.
  • Good comfortable and appropriate foot wear and “exercise” type of clothing should be worn (well-fitting shoes that support you foot, and loose comfortable clothing that will allow for movement and circulation of air while you are exercising).
  • A gradual introduction to low-intensity exercise should be the approach taken if you are “new” to exercise (you haven’t done much exercising before). As your ability and level of fitness improves, then slowly increase the intensity of the exercise.
    • Some simple activities could include:
      • Taking the stairs rather than the lift
      • Parking the car further away from the shop entrance so that a short walk is required to get to the shop
      • Gardening
      • Playing with the children / grandchildren
      • Taking the dog for a walk

For some really simple exercise ideas that you can do at home, click here to view exercise videos