What is Type II Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high. It's caused by problems with a chemical in the body called insulin and it's often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes.
Why is physical activity important for Type II Diabetes?
Whether you are looking to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes or you have already been diagnosed and are looking for ways to help manage your condition, physical activity is extremely important.
Keeping active has a number of health benefits for those with, or at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Most importantly, it helps you to control your weight and manage your blood sugar level.
Physical activity: preventing Type II Diabetes
If you are currently inactive and lead a sedentary lifestyle (i.e. you spend long periods of time sitting down), you are at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Examples of a sedentary behaviours include:
- Working at a desk for long periods without standing up
- Sitting down while studying at school or home
- Sitting or lying down while watching television or playing video games
- Sitting while driving a vehicle, or while travelling
Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is therefore key to preventing Type 2 Diabetes. Regular activity not only helps you to maintain a healthy weight (being overweight is a key risk factor for diabetes), but it can also help reduce your blood pressure and manage stress, which can in turn help with your sleep.
Physical activity: managing Type II Diabetes
If you have already been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, regular physical activity can be a major part of your treatment. There are many benefits of being physically active with diabetes, such as:
- It helps the body use insulin better
- It helps you to improve your HBA1c (your average blood glucose/sugar levels)
- It helps you to control your blood pressure (having high blood pressure means you're more at risk of diabetes complications)
- It helps you to maintain a healthy weight (being overweight can lead to further diabetes complications)
- It helps to improve cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against other problems like heart disease
- It gives you energy and helps you sleep
- It benefits your mind as well as your body – exercise releases endorphins, which help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood
How much physical activity should you be doing?
If you're looking to reduce your risk of diabetes or manage your current condition, you should aim to take part in the recommended amount of physical activity for your age group, as outlined in the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines.
For adults aged 19 and over, the recommended amount is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Where possible, this should be a combination of cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and balance exercises. These could include:
- Cardiovascular activities - brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing
- Strength activities - resistance training, Yoga, Nordic Walking, carrying heavy shopping, heavy gardening
- Balance/mobility - Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, body balance classes
However, there are lots of different ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and every little bit of movement can make a big difference. Here are some ideas about how to make physical activity part of your day-to-day life:
- Try to break periods of sitting as often as possible
- If you sit at a desk or screen all day, try some chair-based exercises
- Do some gardening or housework
- Take regular breaks at work to stand up and move around e.g. get a glass of water
- Walk part of your journey to work if you can
- When you go to the work or the shops, try parking at a further car parking space