diabetes type 2 treatment exercise
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Do not skip your exercise! We’re sure you must have heard this advice from your doctor at every visit. Exercise is an integral part of diabetes management along with diet and medications.[1] In fact, recently a study reported that skipping your exercise schedule even for a day or two can actually make your condition worse. [2]

Exercise type   Calories burnt
Dancing (fast)223
Strength training (weight lifting)112

The table above lists down the approximate number of calories burnt in about 30 minutes for a person with the average weight of 70 kg.

Most people who have diabetes prefer walking as it is the simplest and easiest exercise to perform. And why not? Walking is one of the best exercises to keep your metabolism active. However, you cannot rely on just one type of activity. Aerobic exercise and strength training both are very important for managing diabetes. Let’s understand how different exercise types help to control diabetes;

1. Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise improves oxygen consumption and increases the functioning of cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It is also known as cardio exercises. Swimming, cycling, treadmill, walking, running and jumping rope are some of the aerobic exercises which help the body to use insulin better. Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering blood glucose and blood pressure. Try these cardio exercises for a soft start;


Walking is a basic form of exercise. But, for people with diabetes, it is one of the best exercises to boost metabolism. A typical adult takes approximately 2,000 to 9,000 steps per day. Research suggests that approximately 7,000-10,000 steps/day is equivalent to 30 minutes of exercise. Remember, you need at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, so plan your walk time accordingly. [3],[4]


Swimming helps to stretch and relax muscles without putting any stress or pressure on the joints. Swimming intensity, duration, timing, and starting blood glucose level are important to note. these must be checked against your blood sugar level after the activity. Swimming has also been proven to be ideal and safe for pregnant women with gestational diabetes. [5], [6]


Dancing is one of the most fun workouts. It helps to improve flexibility, reduces blood sugar level and also promotes weight loss. Dance forms such as Zumba or aerobic dance make you remember the sequence and counts, which also helps to boost your brain power.

Climbing stairs

It is one of the most convenient exercises that easily fits into your busy schedule. Research suggests that climbing up and down stairs for at least 3 minutes can help you to lower blood sugar levels. This exercise shows the best results on glucose levels when performed an hour or two after having your meal. [7]

2. Strength training

Strength training includes resistance exercises that have to be performed against the weight. Unlike aerobic exercise, most resistance exercises need equipment such as weights, barbells, dumbbells, weight machines, and others. Some simple resistance exercises such as push-ups, lunges, squats, and planks do not need equipment and can be performed easily at home.

Strength training helps to maintain blood glucose, makes muscles strong and also reduces the risk of bone diseases. Usually, young people prefer doing resistance exercise in order to build muscles. However, these exercises are also safe and effective for older people who have diabetes. Try these simple strength training exercises which do not need any equipment. [8]


A simple exercise you can start doing at home! All you need to do is stand straight with legs wide apart and then slowly go down to sitting position keeping your back straight. Squat exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks. You can bring in some variation by trying chair squats or wall squats.[9]

Learn more about Barbell Squats here.


Planks strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back muscles. All you need to do is get in push-up position and rest your body horizontally on your toes and arms. Hold the position for as long as you can.

Check out our beginner’s guide to strength training exercises for diabetes

3. Other exercises

Other exercises such as yoga or pilates that focus on achieving the balance between mind and body are also beneficial in diabetes. Since people with diabetes tend to suffer a lot of mental stress, which further affects blood glucose levels, including some mind-body exercises in the routine is a great idea.


Yoga is an ancient therapy that heals both body and mind. Regular practice of yoga reduces blood glucose levels. Some of the popular yoga asanas that are beneficial in diabetes include Surya Namaskar, Tadasana,  Padmasana, Pranayama, Bhujangasana, Vajrasana, Dhanurasana and Shavasana. [10]


Pilates is also a mind-body exercise like Yoga. Unlike most other exercise forms that mainly focus on the physical aspect, Pilates focuses on achieving the balance between mind and body.


  1. Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Fernhall B, et al; American College of Sports Medicine; American Diabetes Association. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes Care. 2010; 33(12):e147-167.
  2. McGlory C, von Allmen MT, Stokes T, et al. Failed Recovery of Glycemic Control and Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis With 2 wk of Physical Inactivity in Overweight, Prediabetic Older Adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018; 73(8):1070-1077. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx203. PMID: 29095970
  3. James O. Hill. Walking and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2005 Jun; 28(6): 1524-1525.
  4. Tudor-Locke C1, Craig CL, Aoyagi Y, et al. How many steps/day are enough? For older adults and special populations. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011;8:80. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-80. PMID: 21798044
  5. José Roberto da Silva, Jr, Paulo Sérgio Borges, Karine F Agra, et al. Effects of an aquatic physical exercise program on glycemic control and perinatal outcomes of gestational diabetes: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2013; 14: 390. Published online 2013 Nov 19. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-390.
  6. Sideraviciūte S, Gailiūniene A, Visagurskiene K, et al. The effect of long-term swimming program on glycemia control in 14-19-year aged healthy girls and girls with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Medicina (Kaunas). 2006; 42(6):513-518. PMID: 16816547
  7. Hiroto Honda, Makoto Igaki, Yuki Hatanaka, et al. Stair climbing/descending exercise for a short time decreases blood glucose levels after a meal in people with type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2016; 4(1): e000232.
  8. Zar Chi Thent.  Role of Exercise in the Management of Diabetes Mellitus: the Global Scenario. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80436.
  9. Bando H,   Kan M , Konoike K, et al. Squat Exercise Therapy-Effective for Diabetics by HiSquat. J Nov Physiother 7:353. doi: 10.4172/2165-7025.1000353.
  10. Malhotra V1, Singh S, Tandon OP, et al. The beneficial effect of yoga in diabetes. Nepal Med Coll J. 2005;7(2):145-147

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for patient awareness only. This has been written by qualified experts and scientifically validated by them. Wellthy or it’s partners/subsidiaries shall not be responsible for the content provided by these experts. This article is not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Please always check with your doctor before trying anything suggested on this article/website.