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:

  • Helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • Increases the amount of glucose used by the muscles for energy, so it may sometimes lower blood glucose (sugar) levels
  • Helps the body to use insulin more efficiently – regular activity can help reduce the amount of insulin you have to take
  • Improves your diabetes management (particularly Type 2 diabetes)

Top Tips to Reduce the Risk of 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 in the long run.

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 neighborhood. You don't have to join a gym or take up expensive classes.

What kinds of activities should I do?

Gentle aerobic activities are best – try starting with a gentle walk, bike ride, or swim.

Strength building activities are also important. Try yoga or some resistance work to keep muscles strong.

Are you 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.

Gradually increase to 20-30 minutes of exercise to breathlessness each day, starting small with gradual steps aiming to increase your exercise capacity.

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!

When you're ready, try some more sociable exercises, like doubles badminton, dancing, yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or brisk walking with a friend. Exercising with a friend can help keep you committed. You can find lots of activities on our Activity Finder.

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.

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. Test your levels more often before, during and after any physical activity.

Further information on diabetes and physical activity