Exercise / physical activity, combined with dietary changes has been shown to delay the progression “pre-diabetes” to diabetes. The main reasons are weight loss (which reduces insulin resistance) achieved by reduced calorie intake (energy intake) and physical activity, which improves insulin sensitivity, and of course, facilitates weight loss.1

People with established type 2 diabetes will benefit from regular physical activity as can assist with managing your blood sugar (glucose) levels, reduces 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, your blood pressure etc. and he will advise the best type of exercise program for you to embark on. 

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 for patients taking Sulphonylureas and or insulin. This does need to be individualised depending on your requirements and exercise intensity.
  • If blood glucose levels are >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 footwear and “exercise” type of clothing should be worn (well-fitting shoes that are supportive, 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: