Regular physical activity can slow and prevent the progression of diabetes. Diabetes Canada recommends getting 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week.

Becoming physically active can be challenging, and many people will need help starting an exercise routine and achieving healthy goals.

It is important to think about what, for how long, when, where and how you will be physically active. Write down your plans – the more specific and personal you make your plans, the more likely you are to follow through.

What activities can you do?

Physical activity comes in many forms. You can obtain health benefits from continuing to do simple things such as:

  • Taking the stairs
  • Working in the garden
  • Playing with your kids
  • Mowing your lawn
  • Walking around the mall
  • Cycling, swimming, or golfing

Because of modern living, it is important to think about being physically active each day.

Deciding to be active on a regular basis

We know that being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to help manage your diabetes and improve your health. We also know that it can be difficult to get started.

Maybe all you need is a little help to overcome common challenges to being active.

  1. Making physical activity a priority.

    Physical activity is something your body needs everyday to be healthy. Treat physical activity like sleep or food.
      
  2. Fitting physical activity into your day.

    Pick the same time each day to be physically active. Scheduling physical activity as part of your regular routine may help you to be more active. At least every second day, do activities like brisk walking, cycling or swimming, for at least 10 minutes at a time. Each week, add five minutes to every activity session you do.
      
  3. Increase physical activity in your day and reduce sedentary time.

    Choose active options when you can, such as taking the stairs. Include more activities that you may already do, such as walking the dog, gardening, curling or playing golf. Limit TV or recreational computer use to no more than two hours per day and reduce, or break up, the time you spend sitting.
      
  4. Begin regular resistance exercise.

    With the help of a qualified exercise professional, diabetes educator, or exercise resource (such as a video or brochure) learn how to do a muscle strength building routine using weight machines, free weights (such as lifting a barbell or dumbbell), resistance bands or your own body weight. You will need to work most of the muscles in your body with eight to 10 different exercises. Do each exercise 10 to 15 times each at a light to moderate intensity. Repeat this routine if you can.
      
  5. Continue to do regular aerobic exercise.

    Do at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week, spread over three separate days. Don’t go for more than two days in a row without exercise. For example, 30 minutes Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday = 150 minutes total. Gradually increase the time of your activity sessions up to 60 minutes or more. Also, try to increase the intensity or challenge of your activities. More challenging activities could be hiking, sports, jogging or swimming laps.
      
  6. Continue to do regular resistance exercise.

    Continue using weight machines or free weights (such as lifting a barbell or dumbbell). You will need to work most of the muscles in your body with eight to 10 different exercises, done eight to 10 times each at a moderate to hard intensity. Repeat this routine two to three times.
      
  7. You do not have to try something new.

    Regular physical activity can be something you already do; for example, gardening or walking. Just being more regular with your activity will benefit your diabetes.
      
  8. Do not let your diabetes stop you.

    For most people with diabetes, walking and light- to moderate-intensity activities are safe and helpful. Remember to take good care of your feet and to be aware of your blood glucose (sugar) when being physically active.
      
  9. Physical activity and exercise get easier.

    When you are active, your heart rate increases; you may breathe a little harder, sweat, or even feel a little sore the next morning. This is normal. With time, as your fitness improves, all physical activities in your life will feel easier and be more enjoyable!
      
  10. Sticking with it pays off.

    If you are having trouble getting going with physical activity, try making a plan. There may be a few false starts in the beginning. This is normal. Try to see your next opportunity for physical activity as a step closer to a regular routine.

Keep going!

Habits can be hard to change, so be prepared with a plan in case your motivation starts to fade.

  • Do something you like! It is hard to stick to an activity that is not fun. It may take you a few tries before you find the activity that is right for you.
  • Have a support network. Ask your family, friends and co-workers to help you stay motivated by joining you for a walk or a workout at the gym.
  • Set small, attainable goals and celebrate when you reach them. Reward yourself in healthy ways.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Seek professional help from a personal trainer, or someone knowledgeable who can help you find a fitness regimen that will work for you.