Exercise plan for those with type 2 diabetes


Posted at Sep 15 2023 03:51 PM

Photo source: Glucerna website
Photo source: Glucerna website

Physical and emotional effects of being diagnosed with diabetes

Most people remember the day they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes very clearly. While everyone's diagnosis story and events leading up to it are different, the news is life-changing. 

Diabetes may not only affect you physically, but emotionally as well. Getting a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes will often mean a major change in your lifestyle to help manage the condition. This may also mean a huge change for the loved ones including friends and family. 

You may experience some of the following when living with diabetes:1

  • difficulty accepting the diabetes diagnosis 
  • diabetes distress
  • mood swings from sugar lows and highs 

Growing evidence indicates a potential relationship between how you feel in your mood and uncontrolled blood sugar.2 As diabetes is a long term condition, sometimes when you feel out of control you may also experience fluctuations in your mental and emotional well-being too.

Having diabetes may affect your mental and emotional well-being, causing some people to feel:2

  • stress
  • nervous
  • anxious
  • irritable
  • anger
  • restlessness

However, research shows that along with taking medication and eating the right food, a good diabetes exercise plan - incorporating both aerobic and anaerobic exercise – may help lower blood glucose levels. Exercise may also help boost your "happy hormones" that play a big part in regulating mood and emotions.

  • Exercising causes the release of feel-good endorphins - such as serotonin and dopamine, which are natural brain chemicals that may help enhance your overall sense of well-being.3
  • Regular exercise may take your mind off any concern or anxiety you may be experiencing - so you may get away from any cycle of negative thoughts. It may also give motivation and excitement to work towards your wider diabetes management goals and aspirations.

Steps in building a diabetes-friendly exercise plan

An ideal first step to managing diabetes is understanding your current situation. Setting goals for your future is a good way to get your life on the right track. A goal does not need to be the finish line, but rather a pointer to help keep you motivated as you go along. Ask your healthcare provider these questions to better understand your diabetes:

  • Where am I in terms of diabetes progression? 
  • What exercise is best to slow progression? 
  • Am I at optimal weight for diabetes management?
  • What type of exercise program should I do to lose weight? 

Understand your diabetes progression

Diabetes management is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Just like how it is often a unique experience for different individuals, a diabetes management plan is also specific. Your routine to manage diabetes will likely need to be adjusted. You might start managing your diabetes with diet and exercise, but, over time, you may have to progress to medication.4 Talk to your healthcare provider about your diabetes progression, exercise and weight goals. This will help ensure that you are choosing a form of exercise that is best suited for you. 

Understand your optimal weight

Working towards and maintaining a healthy weight by increasing your activity levels and following a well-balanced diet is a good way to help prevent or improve insulin resistance. Every small change helps. A weight loss of 7%-20% your current body weight may help in better management of diabetes.5 So, if you weigh 100kg even a 10kg weight loss may make a difference in your overall health.5 With time, your weight might go up and down, and this may be really hard to cope with. But with the right exercise plan and support from your healthcare provider, you may get to a weight that is healthy for you.

People who are living with diabetes and those who have pre-diabetes may also benefit from nutritional drinks like Glucerna, along with proper diet and daily activities. 

Glucerna® is formulated with a low glycemic index (GI), an option you may include into you blood glucose management plan. It is complete and balanced with 35 nutrients, and is designed to replace a regular meal to help manage the diet of people living with diabetes and those who are pre-diabetic, along with proper diet and exercise.

Photo source: Glucerna
Photo source: Glucerna

If you are overweight, losing weight may improve blood sugar control. Your health care provider may help you set goals for losing weight. Cutting back on the number of calories you eat each day may help lower your blood sugar levels even before you actually lose weight.

For a person who is overweight, a typical goal is to lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. For a person who weighs 240 pounds, this would mean losing 12 to 24 pounds.6

What possible exercise options are there?

Exercise for type 2 diabetes provides a multi layered benefit and costs little to nothing. It is also one of the most effective ways to help improve insulin sensitivity and manage blood glucose, as well as boost mood hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Studies show that the best exercise for diabetes is one that can help lower blood sugar up to 24 hours or more after your workout by making your body sensitive to insulin.7

If you have not exercised much recently, you will want to start slow. Set realistic goals before embarking on any exercise. Trying to find the balance of work, family and personal responsibilities can be tricky, but not impossible. It may get overwhelming to know where to start with getting the right exercise going. You may want to seek consultation with a healthcare professionals to customize an exercise regimen that would work best for you. Here are some options you can consider: 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.8 They are short bursts of activity with rest breaks in between each bout of exercise. This helps increase endorphins and serotonin which will leave you in a high mood state. 

Strength/resistance training. Strength and resistance training help improves blood glucose control and helps the body use insulin more efficiently.9 It also gives the body huge bursts of dopamine which may help alleviate low moods. 

Hiking/walking. Walking and hiking is one of the easiest aerobic activities to start with, and most people with diabetes may do it. At a brisk pace or moderate intensity, walking may decrease blood glucose levels and increase mood and memory.10 

Yoga/Tai Chi. Yoga and Tai Chi are forms of exercise that use slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. Both incorporate flexibility, strength and balance which may lower blood sugar and reduce stress.11

Swimming. Swimming, water aerobics and other aquatic activities may give you a good whole body workout, while putting little stress on your joints.

Cycling. Cycling involves good leg muscle movement. At a moderate pace, cycling for an hour allows overweight people with diabetes to halve their blood sugar levels in the next 24 hours.12

A dedicated diabetes exercise plan is recommended. Including everyday activity and physical recreation is equally important for balance and motivation. Being forced into doing something you find mundane and repetitive may affect mental health. 

In order to be consistent with some form of exercise - think outside of structured workouts when considering movement. You may still burn calories outside of your workouts while getting the benefits of mood boosting hormones by performing these everyday physical activities:

  • walking while running errands
  • shopping
  • taking out the trash
  • cleaning the house
  • utilizing a standing desk

The right fitness routine requires the right nutrition

Knowing when and what to eat may make a difference for your exercise plan. If your schedule permits you to exercise in the morning, have breakfast at least an hour before your workout. Studies show that eating or drinking something containing 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates before attempting a high intensity exercise such as HIIT or strength training may improve workout performance. It can also allow you to work out for a longer time.13

Good breakfast options include:

  • whole-grain/multigrain avocado toast
  • eggs and whole grain bread
  • boiled sausage, eggs and potatoes
  • unsweetened coffee
  • granola with low fat yoghurt

If you are opting for low-impact exercises such as walking, yoga, cycling or swimming, some good diet options that give you that boost are: 

  • boiled egg and avocados
  • lean protein, such as chicken breast, fish or lamb chops
  • healthy vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, beets and radish 
  • low glycaemic index carbs such as sweet potatoes, multi grain bread, lentils and basmati rice

Create a holistic plan for exercise, diet and weight goals.

Recording what you eat for each meal may be an eye-opener. It is easy to assume that you are eating an appropriate amount of calories in a day. However, tracking it can reveal that you may be getting more daily calories than your body truly needs, or even less than is optimal. 

Tracking long-term is a good way to help create new habits while making sure you are on track to reaching your weight goals in the time you have set for yourself. 

Other ways to balance your diet, exercise and weight goals are: 

  • schedule meals at a set time each day
  • snack on low GI fruit when the sugar craving hits
  • enjoy more fiber and protein to keep feeling fuller for longer
  • drinks lots of water to stay hydrated 

Managing diabetes can feel like a positive life change

When your attitude matches your aspirations, anything will seem possible. Teach yourself to find enjoyment in a healthy lifestyle and look forward to every step of the process. As the saying goes, a healthy body is a healthy mind. 

People who are stressed or feel negative emotions may have higher levels of certain hormones that may affect how insulin works. Once you know how stress affects your blood sugar levels, you may combat this by learning relaxation techniques, prioritizing tasks and setting limits. 

Exercise may help relieve stress and balance emotions while helping to lower your blood sugar level. There is no single best way to be physically active. You may be active anywhere, with little to no equipment. Just do what feels good to you and get your heart pumping and the positive energy flowing.

To know more about how Glucerna may help manage your glucose levels as part of your type 2 diabetes management program and healthy lifestyle, visit their website.

Glucerna comes in Vanilla and Chocolate flavors. It also comes in a ready-to-drink bottle.
To check out products from Glucerna, visit their Shopee and Lazada pages.
For more information on Glucerna, click here.

1American Diabetes Association. Diabetes and Emotional Health. 
2New South Wales Diabetes Association. Can diabetes affect your mood?
3American Psychological Association. Working out boosts brain health. 
4American Diabetes Association. How Type 2 diabetes progresses.  
5Diabetes United Kingdom. What is your healthy weight when you have diabetes?
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing Weight.
7American Diabetes Association. Blood sugar and exercise.  
8National Library of Medicine. Effectiveness and Safety of High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
9American Diabetes Association. Anaerobic exercise and diabetes.
10American Diabetes Association. Benefits of walking.
11American Diabetes Association. Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes. 
12Diabetes United Kingdom. Cycling with diabetes.
13Mayo Clinic.

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