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  • Exercise & type 2 diabetes

    Key points:

    • Physical activity (exercise) is very good for all people and especially those with diabetes
    • Getting started may not be easy, but is possible once you take those first few steps
    • You may need to see your health care team and have a medical check before increasing your level of physical activity
    • Moderate exercise done most days of the week is best
    • Aerobic exercise (exercise that uses up oxygen) is best for improving your health
    • You don’t have to do a huge amount of exercise to improve your health (the equivalent of 20-30 minutes walk each day)

    Regular physical activity doesn’t mean exercising to become an Olympic athlete! The best sort of physical activity is something of the equivalent effort of walking briskly for 30 minutes on most days of the week. This does not have to be in one 30 minute block. Shorter amounts (eg: 5 or 10 minute blocks that all add up to at least 30 minutes daily) work just as well.

    Getting started

    Increasing your level of physical activity all starts with the single steps you take each day. Taking that first step can be difficult. Maybe you’ve never been active. Maybe you used to be but over the years you’ve stopped. We all have our reasons for being inactive. We may think we are:

    • Too old
    • Too overweight
    • Too weak
    • Too sick
    • Too busy
    • Too tired
    • Too discouraged

    It’s never too late to start increasing your level of physical activity. With few exceptions, even if you’re disabled or injured you can still improve your level of fitness. Once you get going, you’ll be amazed how quickly those excuses fade away!

    The first step – see your health care team

    If you have any complications of diabetes, a history of heart disease, or diabetes for more than 8 years, you should get a thorough medical check before increasing your level of physical activity.

    This should check your:

    • Blood pressure
    • Blood lipid levels (cholesterol)
    • HBA1c (a blood test that measures your average blood glucose levels)
    • Health of your heart and circulatory system
    • Eyes
    • Feet

    The key to getting the benefits of physical activity is to stick at it over time. You will gain far more health benefits if you have regular moderate amounts of exercise every day than if you exercise for longer on only one or two days of the week.

    Physical activity (or exercise) can help you:

    • Feel better (it improves mood)
    • Look better (which improves mood and self esteem)
    • Sleep better
    • Lower your blood pressure
    • Lower your blood glucose levels
    • Improve your lipid levels (cholesterol)
    • Manage your weight
    • Improve your cardiovascular fitness (and reduce heart and blood vessel disease)
    • Reduce stress levels

    What sort of physical activity is best?

    The sort of activity that is most beneficial is what is called ‘aerobic’ activity. This means activity that uses oxygen. You know if you are aerobically active because you will have to breathe harder than when you are resting. Your breathing should still be comfortable however. You may need to discuss with your doctor or diabetes nurse educator what type of physical activity is best for you.

    Examples of aerobic activity are:

    • Walking
    • Mowing the lawns
    • Doing the vacuum cleaning
    • Swimming
    • Cycling
    • Playing ball games
    • Aerobics or dance classes
    • Washing the car

    Green Prescription

    Some complications of diabetes can make certain types of physical activity bad choices. Ask your doctor or diabetes nurse educator to write you a physical activity prescription (Green Prescription).

    A Green Prescription is a health professional’s written advice to a patient to be physically active as part of the patient’s health management. Ask for a physical activity plan that takes into account your current level of activity, special health concerns, and your diabetes management plan.For more information, head to their website.

    © Diabetes New Zealand


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