The dose of exercise matters for type 2 diabetes

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

A new study published in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise has found that for people with type 2 diabetes, both aerobic exercise training (like walking or jogging) and resistance exercise training (strength training) lead to improvements in blood glucose control.

And a combination of aerobic and resistance training results in larger improvements.

About the study

The research conducted by a team at the University of Calgary, analyzed data from a six-month exercise trial in participants with type 2 diabetes.

The study explored the links between the dose of exercise (the proportion of the total prescribed exercise sessions that were completed) and the change in blood glucose control.

All participants in the exercise groups were asked to do three exercise sessions per week.

The research found that overall, the more exercise completed, the better the improvement in blood glucose control.

For aerobic training and combined aerobic and resistance training, but not for resistance training alone, those who completed more exercise sessions had greater improvements in blood glucose control.

The links between the dose of exercise and change in blood glucose control were strong for younger people (age 40-55 years), men, and those with worse blood glucose control before participating in the study.

In contrast, for older participants (age 55-70 years), women and people with better blood glucose control at the start of the study, there was no strong link between the percent of exercise sessions completed and improvements in blood glucose control.

The benefits of exercise

Being more active improves your general health and quality of life. It can also help you to better manage your diabetes.

The amount of physical activity that’s right for you will depend on your current level of health and fitness.

It’s generally recommended that you do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week, in addition to your normal daily activities.

What type of activity should I be doing?

The best exercise for you is one you enjoy, as this will help keep you motivated.

Activities that help to build strength, balance and flexibility are the best for your overall health and wellbeing.

There are a lot of great options to choose from, including walking, cycling, dancing, swimming and light resistance training.

If you are unsure of what activities are suitable or safe for you, it’s important to speak to an accredited exercise physiologist for personalised advice.

Some things to consider

  • Before you begin any form of physical activity, talk to your GP, an exercise physiologist or a diabetes educator to work out the type and amount of exercise that’s right for your current state of health and fitness.
  • If you have gestational diabetes (or have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are pregnant) you will need to take extra care when exercising. Ask for an exercise plan that’s also suitable during pregnancy.
  • Test your blood glucose levels before, during and after exercise, particularly when starting a new program. This will help you understand how your body responds to exercise.
  • Wear supportive shoes that fit well and check your feet daily.
  • Do not exercise if you feel unwell.
  • If you take insulin or certain diabetes tablets, always carry some foods or fluids containing carbohydrate with you.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity if your blood glucose levels are above 15 mmol/L.

Inspiration to get moving

Beat It

If you need help and inspiration to get more physically active, then the Beat It program might be right for you. Beat It is a group exercise and lifestyle program for people living with or at risk of diabetes. These small group programs include two one-hour sessions per week for eight weeks.

With the restrictions on face to face programs due to COVID we are currently running Beat it programs online. Look on our Education and Events page to see if there is a program at a time and location to suit you.

Exercising At Home

If you prefer to exercise at home but need help to get started check out the latest webinars put together by our Exercise Physiologists:

Increasing your physical activity is good for your body, mind and diabetes management. So make sure to include a little movement into every day.

Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes