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There is no doubt that everyone could benefit from including physical activity in their daily routine. But if you have type 2 diabetes, leading an active lifestyle plays an even more critical role in your health.

Exercise is as powerful a therapy as anything we can offer to people with type 2 diabetes—it’s as powerful in lowering blood glucose [sugar] as all of the drugs available,

says Dr. Paul Oh, medical director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s Rumsey Centre, where about 40 per cent of patients are living with type 2 diabetes.

Start simply

If the idea of getting active seems complicated, Oh has a refreshingly simple prescription: Sit less and move more. “Start by getting up and stretching at your desk every 30 minutes,” he says, noting that the average person sits for about 10 hours per day. “Basic standing requires all kinds of muscles to move on a small level, which revs up your metabolism in a big way and burns sugar. Don’t think you have to start running tomorrow to see changes in your health.”

The addition of even a small to moderate amount of regular activity can result in almost immediate and significant changes in your health. “When people with diabetes are physically active on a daily basis, their blood sugar [level] stabilizes and may even drop by as many as three or four points after an exercise session, [which is] quite a significant amount,” says Oh.

Plan for speed bumps along the way

Instead of feeling guilty or discouraged if you get off track with your activity routine, decide ahead of time that you will take short breaks from it. For example, you may want to give yourself permission to sleep in one day a week instead of taking your regular morning walk. “Know that at some point in your newly active lifestyle you’ll likely stop exercising, and know that this is okay,” says Oh. “The important thing is that you know how to be active, how to restart, and that your body will relearn the activity quickly” once you restart your routine.

Do not be afraid of exercise

If you have not been physically active, it is not unusual to be a little fearful of exercise. But it is far more dangerous to not move than it is to include some simple activity in your day, Oh says. Being inactive means you could miss out on a long list of health benefits, including improved blood sugar, fitness levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, body fat, mood, and memory. If you are planning on starting an ambitious exercise program, it is a good idea to talk with your doctor first—but you do not need a doctor’s approval simply to get up and moving! “Everyone can stand more and move more and even get a little sweaty,” says Oh, who considers the family couch far more dangerous than any exercise machine.

Did you know?

Regular physical activity, together with healthy eating and weight control, can reduce the rate of type 2 diabetes by 60 per cent. Read more from “Physical Activity” now.

Do you have a story about the difference physical activity has made for you and your health? Please let us know at

(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Winter 2018)

Author: Barb Gormley

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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