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effects of diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
  • It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to urinate a lot, and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
  • It's a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
  • It's caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It's often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of Type 2 diabetes.

Benefits of physical activity:

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. There are many benefits of being physically active with diabetes, such as

  • It helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • It helps the body use insulin better
  • It helps you to improve your HBA1c (your average blood glucose/sugar levels)
  • It helps you to control your blood pressure (having high blood pressure means you're more at risk of diabetes complications)
  • It helps to improve cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against other problems like heart disease

Being active with Type 2 diabetes

Start small. The biggest improvements come from making small changes that you can increase safely, and incorporate into your daily routine. This will make you much more likely to stick with the activity.

This can start with simple things like taking the stairs not the lift; parking at the back of the car park rather than by the door; getting off the bus a few stops early; and walking short journeys rather than taking the car.

Remember that activities can be done at your home, in your garden, at a local park, or even walking around your neighbourhood. You don't have to join a gym or exercise class.

Visit your GP for a check-up if you haven't exercised before, if returning from injury, or if you're returning to exercise after a long break. Always seek advice from your GP and if advised to, do not exercise.

Activity may affect your blood sugar levels both during and after exercise. Regular checking will help you to understand how activity affects your blood sugar levels.

What activities are suitable for me?

There are a range of different types of activities that are suitable. Try a few, and experiment with something you've never tried before!

It's important to choose activities that you enjoy, as you'll be more likely to stick with them. But here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Chair-based exercises. There are lots of videos online, or you can try some of the links on our Active at Home section.
  • Aquafit
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Exercise Classes
  • Racket sports
  • Team Sports
  • Running

How much physical activity should you be doing?

If you're looking to reduce your risk of diabetes or manage your current condition, you should aim to take part in the recommended amount of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, as outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines.

Where possible, this should be a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. These could include:

  • Cardiovascular activities - brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing
  • Strength building activities to keep muscles strong - Yoga,resistance work, carrying heavy shopping, heavy gardening
  • Balance/mobility - Yoga, pilates, Tai Chi

If you are uncomfortable exercising in a group, there are lots of home-based activities that you can do to improve strength, stamina, and flexibility: mowing the lawn, digging in the garden or pushing a wheelbarrow, or doing chair-based exercises, which are a great way to get started back into physical activity gently.

As your strength, confidence and stamina improves, try to aim for the recommended 150 minutes moderate activity per week. This can be broken down into bouts of 10 - 20 minutes whenever you can fit it in. Every minute of activity counts towards your total minutes.

Try using an app like Public Health England's Active 10 app to monitor your walks and ensure you're walking briskly. You'll get increased benefit from walking briskly!

Exercising with a friend can help keep you committed. You can find lots of activities on our Activity Finder.


Further information on diabetes and physical activity