Many experts recommend performing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (such as brisk walking) and/or at least 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (such as taking an aerobics class) a week. The activity should be distributed over at least three days of the week, with no more than two consecutive days without aerobic physical activity.
Resistance training. People with Type 2 diabetes are additionally encouraged to do resistance exercises, such as weight lifting, which target all major muscle groups, at least two times weekly, as long as they have no contraindications, or medical reasons not to perform resistance exercise.
Flexibility exercises. Stretching can help keep your muscles and joints limber, and that can help to minimize your risk of getting hurt. It’s best to stretch after your muscles have warmed up, so stretching after a few minutes of light activity or even at the end of your workout is preferable to stretching at the very beginning of your exercise session. When you stretch, focus on your major muscle groups (calves, thighs, lower back, etc.), and also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use when you’re active. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds until you feel mild tension; feeling pain means you’ve stretched too far. Don’t bounce while you stretch; it can cause small tears in the muscle that will make you less flexible. Repeat each stretch three or four times.
People who have diabetes are encouraged to discuss their exercise plans with their health-care provider before increasing their level of physical activity or starting a formal exercise plan. Your health-care provider may want to conduct certain medical tests prior to your starting to exercise, especially if you have been sedentary or have any diabetes-related complications. Such complications or other medical conditions may mean that certain types of exercise are better for you than others.
In addition, you and your diabetes care team should talk about how to control your blood glucose levels during exercise and when to make adjustments to your usual diabetes regimen. If you are at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), be sure to carry a portable form of carbohydrate such as glucose tablets, glucose gel, or hard candy.
Exercising with other people can also make your workouts safer if you’re at risk of hypoglycemia. Be sure to tell your exercise partners what your symptoms of hypoglycemia are so they can recognize it and assist you with prompt treatment, if necessary.
Encouraging your family members to join you in your activities can be beneficial to everyone’s health. (For tips on encouraging your family members to join you, click here.) But exercising as a family can have more than just physical benefits. It can be a time to talk, show support for one another, and have some fun together, particularly if you choose activities your family members enjoy. For some ideas on how to get everyone involved, see “How One Family Got Active.” You might also motivate your family members by using family exercise sessions as training for a desired outing such as a special hike, a day of skiing, or a trip to a climbing gym.
Be sure to set realistic goals, keep track of your progress, and above all, relish the family time together. The bottom line is that everybody wins!