Chronic Condition Management, Health Systems | By | 04/30/18 | 3 Minute Read

4 Ways Exercise Can Help Prevent or Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Over a hundred million people in the U.S. are living with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. And the condition even comes with a price. The American Diabetes Association estimates that those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes will incur medical expenditures 2.3 times higher than those who don’t have diabetes.

But here’s the good news: if you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes you can make life changes, especially with regards to exercise, to help improve your health. And you don’t need to become a gym rat to reap those benefits. Here are some sustainable ways you can help manage diabetes with exercise.

For starters, avoid sedentary behavior. Prolonged sitting has a negative effect on preventing or managing health problems, including diabetes. Because of this, the American Diabetes Association recommends 3 or more minutes of light activity every 30 minutes during prolonged sedentary activities.

One way to better manage diabetes is by walking. In one recent study, people who regularly walked at least 10,000 steps as part of their daily lives were asked to lower their step count to 1,500 steps per day for 2 weeks. Tests then showed participants had increases in their fat levels and waist sizes, and showed signs of muscle loss and lower cardiorespiratory fitness. Their bodies were also less able to respond to insulin. After they had resumed their normal activity levels for 14 days, the negative effects were reversed.


    Consider setting a calendar alert to remind you to move every hour. If you have a Fitbit device, you can turn on your Reminders to Move so you can get a quick buzz on your device every hour to hit a certain step goals. You can use the opportunity to take a lap around the office or around the block, or even walk in place for a few minutes.

Kick it up a notch and exercise consistently. Exercise can help you lower your blood sugar and boost your sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range. In fact, the ADA recommends people not go more than 2 consecutive days without an aerobic exercise session such as a walk. One study in people with prediabetes found that on participants’ workout days, moderate-intensity exercise increased insulin sensitivity by 51% and high-intensity exercise increased it by 85%.


    Key to establishing a consistent workout routine is finding something sustainable for yourself – and that can start with something as simple as a regular walk. Stretch those legs during your lunch break, or try to build some time into your schedule for a daily brisk walk.

Be sure to focus on resistance training. It’s not just walking and other aerobic activity that are important – strength training is also key to managing type 2 diabetes. It makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood glucose. Strength training can even help maintain and build strong muscles and bones, reducing your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.


    Add strength training to your workout regimen at least twice per week. Don’t be afraid to get creative: you can use weight machines, free weights, resistance bands, and even exercises that allow you leverage your own body weight, such as squats, lunges and planks.

Think beyond walking, and consider other workouts. If you already have a good walking routine established, you may want to add something new to the mix. Consider exercises like Tai Chi, yoga, and swimming. In an 8-week study of Tai Chi exercise, researchers found Tai Chi intervention yielded health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.


    Don’t be shy about looking into these workout classes at your local gym or community center. If group workouts aren’t your favorite, you can also try a home workout video or a digital training program.

This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

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