Benefits of Physical Activity on Diabetes: Move to improve

In a world where diabetes affects millions, understanding the benefits of physical activity as a tool for management and improvement of this condition is more crucial than ever. Whether you’re living with diabetes or simply seeking ways to enhance your overall health, incorporating regular exercise into your routine can offer transformative benefits.

What are the Benefits of Physical Activity?

Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of health, offering extensive benefits that extend far beyond weight management. For individuals with diabetes, the advantages are particularly compelling. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, engaging in regular physical activity can enhance mental well-being, alleviate stress, and boost overall quality of life. The cumulative effect of these benefits underscores why adopting an active lifestyle is a pivotal strategy for managing diabetes effectively. (1)

Why is physical activity important for Diabetes?

Exercise plays a pivotal role in diabetes management. It serves as a powerful tool that goes beyond mere blood sugar control. For individuals with diabetes, particularly type 2, incorporating regular physical activity into their routine can have profound effects on their health. Exercise improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. This increased sensitivity means that cells are more able to use available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity, reducing blood glucose levels. Pretty impressive huh?

Exercise also aids in weight management, which we know here at Diabetes Wellness Australia, is a critical aspect of diabetes care. Excess body fat, especially around the waist, is linked to increased insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond effectively to insulin. By helping to reduce body fat, exercise can decrease insulin resistance, leading to more stable blood glucose levels. Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol profiles, addressing two significant risk factors for heart disease, which people with diabetes are at increased risk for . (2)

How Does Exercise Reduce Diabetes?

Engaging in regular exercise can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 50%, according to research. Exercise combats diabetes by several mechanisms. Primarily, it increases the muscle’s ability to use glucose, regardless of insulin presence, which directly lowers blood sugar levels. During physical activity, muscles contract and push glucose out of the blood and into the cells for energy, reducing blood glucose levels effectively. This process is especially helpful for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, as it provides an alternative pathway for glucose metabolism.

For those already living with diabetes, consistent physical activity is essential for controlling blood glucose levels and preventing complications. Exercise stimulates various processes in the body that improve insulin sensitivity over time. This means that the body becomes better at responding to insulin and managing blood sugar levels even during periods of inactivity. The benefits of physical activity are immediate and long-lasting, with each session of moderate to vigorous exercise improving insulin action for 24 to 48 hours. (3)

We recommend a balanced exercise regimen for controlling blood glucose levels and enhancing overall health. Diabetes Australia recommends a mix of aerobic, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises to create a comprehensive fitness plan tailored to the needs of those with diabetes.

  • Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing are recommended for at least 150 minutes per week, spread over at least three days, with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. These activities help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce body fat. Research indicates that regular aerobic exercise can significantly decrease HbA1c levels, a marker of blood sugar control over time, by up to 0.7% in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Resistance Training: Incorporating resistance or strength training exercises, such as using weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises, at least two times per week can improve insulin sensitivity, increase muscle mass, and boost metabolism. Studies have shown that combining aerobic and resistance training offers more benefits in blood glucose management than either type of exercise alone.
  • Flexibility and Balance Exercises: Activities like yoga and Tai Chi not only enhance flexibility and balance, which is important for preventing falls, but also contribute to stress reduction and improved glycemic control. While direct statistics on their impact on blood sugar levels are less definitive, the stress-reducing aspects of these exercises can indirectly benefit blood glucose management by lowering cortisol levels, a hormone that can raise blood sugar.

Incorporating a variety of these exercises into a weekly routine can offer significant benefits for individuals with diabetes, improving not just blood sugar levels but also overall quality of life. It’s important for each person to consult with healthcare professionals to tailor an exercise program that considers any other health issues and personal preferences to ensure the best outcomes. (4)

Practical Tips for Getting Started

Starting an exercise routine can be daunting, especially for those new to physical activity. Here are some tips to help you begin:

  • Consult with a Healthcare Provider: Before starting any new exercise program, discuss your plans with your doctor, especially if you have any diabetes-related complications.

  • Set Realistic Goals: Start with small, achievable goals, like a 10-minute walk each day, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your activities.

  • Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels: Understanding how different types of exercise affect your blood sugar can help you adjust your diabetes management plan as needed.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated.

  • Wear Appropriate Footwear: Protect your feet with comfortable, well-fitting shoes to prevent blisters and injuries.


The benefits of physical activity on diabetes are undeniable. By incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine, you can significantly improve your diabetes management and enhance your overall health and well-being. Remember, the key to success is consistency and finding activities that you enjoy. With each step, pedal, or stretch, you’re not just moving to improve your physical health but also taking control of your diabetes and paving the way for a healthier, happier life.

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