Diabetes and Physical Activity
If you or a loved one has Type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity can help:
- weight loss or management
- keep bones strong
- improve blood pressure control
- reduce risk of heart disease and cancer
- boost energy levels
A healthy active lifestyle will also improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help manage blood glucose levels.
How much is enough?
You or your loved one should aim to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorously intense aerobic exercise each week (e.g., 30 minutes, five days a week). If this seems like a lot, start with five to ten minutes of comfortable activity each day, gradually building up to your goal. If possible and when ready, try adding resistance exercises like lifting weights three times a week.
The key is to make a plan and start with activities that make sense. Getting active doesn’t have to mean strenuous runs or pumping iron in the gym. Try activities like:
- walking – use the support of a cane or a friend!
- gentle movements while sitting or lying down
- gentle weights at home – soup cans will do the trick!
- specialty fitness classes at a community centre
- wheeling – using a wheelchair is great exercise)
- simple stretches
- Tai Chi
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Keeping yourself or your loved one at a healthy weight is a very important part of managing Type 2 diabetes. This will help keep blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol at ideal levels and prevent complications like heart disease and stroke.
Two easy ways to measure a healthy weight are Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference.
Body Mass Index (BMI): This measurement compares your weight to your height. For most adults aged 18-64 a BMI of 25 or higher is overweight. Calculate your BMI using this formula:
BMI= weight (kg)/[height (m) x height (m)]
Waist Circumference (WC): In general, a healthy WC for men is less than 40 in. (102 cm), and for women, less than 35 in. (88 cm).
If you or your loved one have Type 2 diabetes, it is very important to speak to a dietitian. Ask your doctor or local Community Care Access Centre for a referral. A dietitian works with you to develop a meal plan for better overall health and will help keep your blood glucose levels in a target range.
A great deal of information about healthy eating and diabetes is available. Be sure to read:
- Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada
- Just the Basics: Tips for Healthy Eating, Diabetes Prevention and Management, Canadian Diabetes Association
Healthy Eating Tips
- Eat three meals per day at regular times.
- Space meals no more than six hours apart.
- Make healthy snack choices.
- Limit sugars and sweets including regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey.
- Limit high-fat foods such as fried foods, chips and pastries.
Eat more high-fibre foods like:
- whole grain
- breads and cereals
- dried beans and peas
- brown rice
- vegetables and fruits
Choose starchy foods at every meal. For example:
- whole-grain breads and cereals
Speak with a dietitian to understand what food choices are best for you or your loved one.