Regular exercise, including both aerobic activity and resistance training, offers various and substantial health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that exercise promotes better blood glucose control and helps reduce excess body weight — both of which are significant risk factors for diabetes. Specific types of exercise may also help with health problems that older adults with diabetes often experience, such as impaired balance and flexibility.
Other evidenceTrusted Source suggests that not exercising may increase some of the risks associated with type 2 diabetes. These risks include cardiovascular disease, which refers to conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, and complications related to blood vessel damage, such as eye and kidney disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source note that more than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, about 90–95% of whom have type 2.
Keep reading to learn more about type 2 diabetes and physical exercise, as well as other lifestyle practices that may help people manage the condition.
How can exercise benefit type 2 diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), exercise is critically important for managing blood glucose. Understanding how type 2 diabetes causes blood glucose to rise makes it clear how physical activity can help.
The pancreas makes the hormone insulin, which enables cells to take in glucose from the blood to use as energy. In people with type 2 diabetes. A problem called insulin resistance occurs whereby the cells become less sensitive and responsive to insulin.
As a compensatory measure, the pancreas makes more insulin to get the cells to respond. However, because the pancreas cannot keep upTrusted Source the necessary pace, blood glucose levels eventually rise.
Exercise helps counter the effects of type 2 diabetes in several ways. It increases insulin sensitivity, which helps the cells use any available insulin to take up glucose from the blood. Also, when muscle cells contract during exercise, they are able to take in glucose even when insulin is unavailable.
The blood glucose-lowering effects of exercise last up to about 24 hours following a workout.
Although all exercise helps counter the effects of diabetes by promoting weight loss and increasing insulin sensitivity, the specific types below provide additional advantages:
- Aerobic exercise: Regular aerobic training lowers blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and A1C test results, which provide the average blood glucose level of the past 2–3 months. Research has linked moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise to substantially lower cardiovascular and overall death risks in people with diabetes.
- Resistance exercise: Diabetes is a risk factor for poor muscle strength. Resistance training helps counter this effect, as it increases muscle mass and strength.
- Other types of exercise: Older adults with diabetes tend to have limitations in balance and flexibility. Stretching exercises increase flexibility and range of motion, while balance training decreases the risk of falls and improves gait. Tai chi may improve balance, enhance quality of life, and lessen the symptoms of diabetes that affect the nervous system.
What are the risks of no exercise in type 2 diabetes?
Not engaging in regular exercise deprives a person of many health benefits. Research from 2017Trusted Source notes that a lack of exercise also worsens some of the risks and adverse effects of type 2 diabetes.
Low cardiovascular fitness
Not exercising results in lower levels of cardiovascular fitness, which can be a particular problem for people with diabetes because their risk of cardiovascular disease is two to four times higher than that of people without the condition. Several health issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, contribute to this increased risk.
Low cardiovascular fitness strongly correlates with increased risk of death from all causes in individuals with diabetes.
Elevated blood glucose levels
Without the effects of exercise, blood glucose stays higher than it would do otherwise. Studies link elevated A1C levels to complications of diabetes that relate to blood vessel damage. High blood glucose harms blood vessels in ways that lead toTrusted Source an array of health issues, such as retinal damage. Which can cause blindness.
Exercise helps keep blood glucose at healthy levels. Healthy blood glucose levels prevent damage to the blood vessels.
What kind of exercise?
The CDCTrusted Source recommends getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. The organization also advocates engaging in activities that exercise all of the major muscle groups on at least 2 days of the week.
Examples of moderate intensity exercise include:
- walking briskly
- mowing the lawn
- doing housework
- playing sports
Regardless of how much exercise a person gets. Research links sedentary behavior — which involves prolonged sitting. such as working at a desk or watching TV — to a higher risk of illness and death, warns the ADA.
Studies also link sedentary behavior to poor blood sugar control in people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These individuals can improve their blood sugar levels by engaging in light walking or exercise for 3 minutes every 30 minutes.
Other lifestyle remedies for type 2 diabetes
Lifestyle practices are very beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes. Aside from exercising, the ADATrusted Source recommends the following: