Physical Activity and Exercise: Healthy Living

This page discusses physical activity and exercise.

 

 Content

The Benefits of Activity and Exercise

 Frequent and regular physical activity is recommended for people of all ages and can have the following health benefits:

  • Burns calories to help you lose or maintain weight
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Strengthens muscles and bones
  • Promotes better mental health
  • Boosts self esteem and confidence
  • Enhances sleep quality
  • Increases energy levels
  • Protects against Dementia, Alzheimers

Importantly for people with diabetes regular physical activity can also:

  • Increase the amount of glucose used by the muscles for energy
  • Help the body to use insulin better

Due to the health benefits listed above relating to diabetes, exercise can impact on blood glucose control. The extent of this impact will vary with diabetes type, treatment, activity (including both duration and intensity) and presence of diabetes related complications. It is always beneficial to discuss planned changes to exercise with your diabetes team, who will be able to help you develop an appropriate management plan suited to your individual needs.

Current Recommendations 

Adults (aged 18 – 64 years)

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and  
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  

Alternatively

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). 

Alternatively

  • A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week. For example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Adults (aged 65 +)

Older adults aged 65 or older, who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility, should try to be active daily and should do:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week, and 
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Alternatively

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Alternatively

  • A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week. For example, two 30-minute runs, plus 30 minutes of fast walking, equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and
  • Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

All adults should minimise the amount of time spent sitting for extended periods.

For additional information relating to physical activity guidelines:

Different Types of Exercise

As the guidelines outline, there are two types of activity that are important in managing diabetes, these being; aerobic exercise and strength training.

Aerobic Exercise

This type of exercise helps your body use insulin better. It also helps to increase the strength of your heart and bones, whilst improving blood circulation and reducing your risk of heart disease by lowering blood glucose levels and blood pressure, whilst improving cholesterol levels.

Examples of Aerobic Activities

  • Brisk walking (outside or on a treadmill)
  • Bicycling (outside or stationary cycling)
  • Dancing
  • Aerobics
  • Climbing stairs
  • Jogging / Running
  • Moderate to Heavy Gardening

Strength Training

This type of exercise can also make your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood glucose. It helps to maintain strong muscles and bones, reducing your risk of Osteoporosis and bone fractures. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when your body is at rest. Preventing muscle loss by strength training is a key to maintaining independent living as you age.

Examples of Strength Training Activities

  • Weight machines or free weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Lifting light weights or items such as canned goods or water bottles
  • Exercises that use your own body weight to work your muscles e.g. push ups, sit ups, squats, lunges, planks
  • Other activities that build and keep muscle e.g. heavy gardening 

Be More Active Throughout the Day 

As adults and particularly those with Type 2 Diabetes, especially those with Type 2 should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary for extended periods, it is important to take every opportunity to get up and move.

In addition to formal exercise, there are many chances to be more active throughout the day. Prolonged periods of time spent sitting should be interrupted with bouts of light activity every thirty minutes. The more you move, the more calories you burn off and the easier it can be to control your blood glucose levels. Listed below are some simple strategies that can help you be more active in your daily life:

Work:

  • Take the stair instead of the lift
  • Get up from your desk and have a quick walk around every hour
  • Stand up and stretch at your desk
  • If you go out for lunch, take the opportunity to have a walk
  • If you take the train or bus, get off a stop earlier
  • Try some chair exercises while at your desk

Home:

  • Take the dog a walk, or if you do this, walk quicker, make it longer
  • Play with the kids, play football or throw the Frisbee
  • Carry things from the car or upstairs in two or three trips, rather than one
  • Do your own housework / gardening
  • Walk on the spot during commercial breaks
  • Walk around the house, or up and down the stairs when you talk on the phone

Out and About:

  • Park as far as you can away from the shops
  • Walk down every aisle in the supermarket

Why not try to introduce some of these ideas for a brief period (5- 15 minutes) after a meal, it will help to minimise the impact of food on blood glucose levels.

Decreasing the amount of time sitting by incorporating the above points into your daily routine can help with both weight management and diabetes control.

For more information on activity and exercise and the effect it can have on blood glucose levels, read on here.

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