Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes: How can physical activity help?

Last updated December 2021

Type 2 Diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.

It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body called insulin and it’s often linked to being overweight or inactive. With this in mind, it can be largely managed and even prevented through physical activity.

Living with diabetes: How can physical activity help?

This section is designed for those who are living with or supporting someone living with Type 2 diabetes, as well as those who are wanting to learn how to reduce their risks of developing diabetes. It focuses on the ways to manage diabetes in your everyday life, and most effective incorporate physical activity into your day safely.

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Helps improve your HBA1c

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Reduced stress and anxiety and boosted mood

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Increased alertness and energy levels

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Reduces risk of diabetic complications

Other benefits of being physically active with diabetes include:

  • Helps the body use insulin better
  • Controls your blood pressure (having high blood pressure means you’re at higher risk of diabetes complications)
  • Helps you to maintain a healthy weight (being overweight can lead to further diabetes complications)
  • Improves cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against other problems like heart disease
  • Gives you energy and helps you sleep

Getting started: Exercising with diabetes

Whether you are looking to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes or you have already been diagnosed and are looking for ways to help manage your condition, physical activity is extremely important.

Try and aim for a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and also balance exercises. This could include walking, cycling and also swimming. For a full list of suitable exercises, check out our Active at Home section.

Here are some ideas about how to make physical activity part of your day-to-day life:

  • Try to break periods of sitting as often as possible
  • If you sit at a desk or screen all day, try some chair-based exercises
  • Walk part of your journey to work if you can
  • When you go to the work or the shops, try parking at a further car parking space

Suitable exercise ideas for those living with Type 2 Diabetes

You should aim to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

  • Yoga
  • Breathing exercises
  • Team sports (Football, rugby, volleyball, netball, hockey)
  • Walking
  • Dancing

Diabetes should not prevent you from exercising, however if you’re unsure or unconfident, you should seek the advice of your GP or specialist LTC Healthcare Professional who will be able to refer you to a suitable exercise regime. You can also find further resources and support below.


For Healthcare Professionals

Below is some key information about the science behind type 2 diabetes, as well as some useful resources which you can download or signpost patients to. 

For further information about having conversations with people living with Type 2 diabetes and physical activity please visit Moving Medicine and the E Learning Page for directive conversation support.

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Diabetes information

How can physical activity help reduce chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes?

  • We often link Type 2 Diabetes to being overweight or inactive. Regular physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing diabetes
  • Helps body use insulin better
  • Improves your HBA1c (average blood glucose levels
  • Controls blood pressure which reduces risk of diabetes complications
  • Helps improve cholesterol which will also reduce risk of other problems

Resource bank for diabetes

There are several local charities and funds that can help if you need support. In contacting these charities, you’ll be able to chat to someone who works closely with people living with diabetes. They will also have a good idea of the best steps to take in starting your active journey.

Local charities and organisations

Downloadable resources


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