Get moving! Exercise is important for everyone to stay healthy, fit, and stress free. But for people with type 2 diabetes, it’s an even bigger necessity. Physical activity can help you fight fat, increase muscle mass, improve balance, and most of all, manage your blood sugar levels, possibly reducing your risk for diabetes complications.
The key to success is making exercise a routine so it becomes a healthy habit. But don’t worry—you don’t need an expensive gym with fancy equipment or boutique group classes. There are many free or inexpensive opportunities to be active throughout the day, even in short periods of time.
Studies show that 10-minute high intensity periods of exercise throughout the day can be as beneficial as a longer marathon session. Breaking your exercise into smaller blocks of time is great for people with type 2 diabetes since it may improve your blood sugar and insulin resistance for hours afterwards.
However, the American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week. Plus, the Association advises not to go more than 2 consecutive days without exercising.
Here are some ways to fit fitness into your daily routine whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area of the country:
- One of the benefits of living in an urban area is that there are many paved streets for walking, running, or cycling. In New York City, you could get off the subway a stop or two before your destination and walk the rest of the way. This can be a 10-minute chance to move that will get the heart pumping and perhaps even shave off a few pounds if you do it regularly.
- Put your time to good use and work on your balance while waiting in line. Practice standing on one leg at a time, tightening your core to help protect you from falls. Try to do this several times a day when waiting at a crosswalk, standing in line for an elevator, or getting your coffee fix.
- Strength train at least twice a week. Sure, this can be done with weights at a gym, but you also can do it with large water jugs or detergent bottles. Do push-ups during television commercials or lunges and squats holding your weights as you move from room to room.
- Get active with your family. Find a local park near you by doing an online search for “playgrounds near me” to find recommendations of good spaces to get out and walk or play with your family. If you live in or around Houston, Texas, for example, visit Hermann Park, with 445 acres of land to explore in the heart of the city. Pedal a boat on McGovern Lake, jog through the Bayou Parkland, chase your pet in the soon-to-be-opened dog park, and then cool off by skipping through the water play area in the Buddy Carruth Playground for All Children. Getting active together in green spaces near you has an added bonus of showing your kids how fun it is to be fit, encouraging healthy habits as they get older.
- Dance, hike, jog—all activities you can do right in your own home, backyard, or neighborhood. Try to spend at least 30 minutes each day moving and grooving.
- Take a daily walk at a brisk pace to raise your heart rate and get some aerobic exercise. Use a fitness tracker or use the American Diabetes Association chart for help to increase your steps over time.
- Work out with a friend; it’s always easier to stick to a routine when someone keeps you accountable! If you can’t convince a friend to come along, try searching for “walking groups near me” online to find a community you can move with. Not only will you get more activity in your day, you may meet some new friends who share similar goals.
- Biking helps lung function and improves your heart strength, both of which are great for type 2 diabetes management. Florida’s flat landscape and wonderful year-round weather are perfect for adventures on wheels. Bike along the beach on A1A in Boca Raton, or take in the scenery along the Pinellas Trail for 34 miles in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region. If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of apps available that can help you find local routes in your own area. Whether you want easy trails or are ready for big hills, search for “bike trails” or “bike routes” in your phone’s app store for ideas and inspiration.
- Start small. Park in the lot far from the front door at the supermarket or doctor’s office to get in some extra steps each day.
- Swimming is an ideal aerobic exercise for people with type 2 diabetes because it doesn’t put pressure on your joints and is easier on your feet than many other forms of exercise. Take a dip in a pond, lake, ocean, or pool.
- Can you believe that gardening—as well as heavy cleaning—is a form of calorie-burning exercise? After all, you are stretching, lifting, and bending! Do it vigorously for at least 30 minutes at a time and reap the benefits of fresh veggies and flowers or a clean home.
- Tai chi is an ancient form of exercise that combines low-impact, purposeful movements with deep breathing. This meditation in motion can help balance, improve flexibility, and relax you while reducing inflammation in the body that contributes to diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Find a class near you, and try it yourself for as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour at a time.
No matter where you live, you can be healthier and help control your type 2 diabetes by having fun with exercise. Being active with your diagnosis may come with some challenges, though, so be sure to talk to your health care provider before starting or changing your exercise routine.