Just some of the many benefits of exercise include:
The recommended amount of exercise for you will depend on your level of fitness and any other health conditions you may have.
Before you start, discuss any big changes to your routine with your diabetes team to ensure you are exercising safely.
The Australian Guidelines for Physical Activity provide recommendations for the type of regular exercise that benefits our health. These recommendations suggest that Australian adults:
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you are new to exercise, start off by doing small sessions of your chosen activity. Just 10 minutes is enough to gain benefits. Gradually, as your fitness improves, increase this to 30-60 minutes. If you can't fit long exercise sessions into your day, break your activity up into 10 minute blocks.
Adults are recommended be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Exercise done consistently throughout the week helps us to gain even more benefits especially for people living with diabetes. Regular exercise helps to improve the body's ability to use glucose for energy. Research shows this effect only lasts for 24-72 hours though, so we need to do it regularly!
How ‘intense' your exercise is impacts upon how often it is recommended you do that activity. Which is your preferred exercise intensity level?
If you're breathing more heavily than normal and you can hold a short conversation – you're exercising at a moderate intensity.
The guidelines recommend you do between two-and-a-half to five hours of moderate intensity exercise each week.
You would be short of breath but able to speak up to one sentence if you're doing vigorous intensity exercise, which is a little more difficult to sustain than moderate intensity exercise.
The guidelines recommend you undertake between one-and-a-quarter to two-and-a-half hours of vigorous intensity exercise each week.
Why not mix it up? Try doing both moderate and vigorous activity each week to make up the recommended amount.
Remember, it's not just what exercise we do – but how we do it that will help improve our health. Exercise that is too light may not give you the recommended health benefits while exercise that is too hard can place you at risk of over-training and injury.
Undertake muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week. Strengthening activities include anything that requires your body to move against a weight or gravity. This would include activities such as lifting tins of food, repeated sitting and standing from a chair or seated leg raises.
Minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting. Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible. Meet a friend for a walking date rather than a coffee, stand on public transport rather than sit or ask whether your workplace can provide standing workstations.
Finding the motivation to exercise is often more challenging than exercising itself - so find your own source of motivation to exercise, it may be the key to achieving your exercise goals.
Our top five tips to keeping motivated:
You'll be more motivated to keep up your exercise schedule if you know someone else is relying on you.
Dedicate time each day to exercise, it will be easier to keep to a schedule and you will start to form a routine.
Track your progress and make goals, if you can see how well you're tracking you're more likely to keep up the good work.
Surround yourself with encouragement to remind you why exercise is important and encourage you to continue.
Head out for new exercise gear or a massage to keep motivated.
Exercise is important! And it's important you exercise safely. But before you start, make sure you do the following:
See your GP for the all clear, especially if you're over 35 or have had diabetes for more than 10 years. Consider seeking advice from an exercise physiologist for exercise choices.
You can get advice from your podiatrist or GP to choose your footwear. Check your feet and shoes both before and after exercise.
Plan to do your activity at regular times on set days to reduce the chance of hypos. Plan what exercise you'll do, how often, for how long and at what intensity. Talk to your diabetes educator particularly if you're balancing medication.
Am I feeling well?
It is not recommended that you exercise when you are feeling unwell. Take time out to rest and recuperate and start exercising again when you are feeling better.
Have I checked my blood glucose level (BGL)?
When you are starting a new exercise routine or increasing the intensity of your current physical activity it is important to check your BGL more regularly as you can expect it to change. For people who require blood glucose lowering medication or insulin to manage their diabetes this includes checking your BGL before, during and after exercise.
Check your BGLs every 20-30mins if the intensity, type or duration is new to you, or you experience symptoms of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia.
Check your BGL and monitor it for up to 24 hours.
Have a carbohydrate snack or meal, if required.
Be aware of overnight hypoglycaemia. Have a low GI snack before bed if you think your BGLs might drop during the night.
If you require blood glucose lowering medication or insulin you may need to adjust your dose as your BGL reduces as a result of the exercise. This is particularly important if you are exercising at a high intensity or for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Speak to your health care team before making any changes to your medication dose.
A BGL less than 4mmol/L is usually referred to as hypoglycaemia. Exercise should be postponed until you have treated your hypoglycaemia.
Have a small amount of carbohydrate. I.e. piece of fruit or small glass of milk before you start exercising.
This is the ideal BGL range to exercise. Let’s get moving!
Caution needs to be taken with BGLs consistently over 10mmol/L, consider gentle exercise and see your GP to discuss ongoing treatment.
If your BGL is more than 15mmol/L postpone strenuous exercise. This is considered 'hyperglycaemia' and can cause levels to rise further and lead to dehydration. Exercising when BGLs are above 15mmol/L can also lead to the production of ketones for people with type 1 diabetes.
While exercise is generally a safe activity, there are some warning signs to look out for. These signs let you know that you may have overdone it, or your body is having an abnormal reaction to exercise.
If you experience any of the following during exercise, stop and rest.
If the pain/symptom does not go away within five minutes, seek urgent medical attention - dial 000. If the symptom subsides see your GP before starting exercise again.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers can support individuals and families in manging diabetes and connect you with other health professionals.
The amount of carbohydrate refers to both the serving size and the carbohydrate content of the food.
The amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Can be measured with capillary (taken from a finger prick) or venous (pathology test) blood.
An abbreviation of blood glucose level, BGLs refers to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.
Carbohydrates are one of the body's main energy sources. Carbohydrates are broken down in our digestive system into glucose. This glucose is then released into the bloodstream where it can travel around the body and be used for energy.
Includes high density liproprotein cholesterol (HDL) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). It is ideal to have high HDL and low LDL as HDL helps prevent heart disease by moving fat to the liver to be processed, whereas LDL encourages fat to deposit in our arteries.
A diabetes educator will provide you with information to manage your diabetes. They can also help you develop action plans for the unexpected (e.g. low or high BGLs).
A dentist assists with oral health and provides treatment.
Your dietitian can provide you with individualised information about healthy eating.
The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is a blood test that is used to assess how well your kidneys are working.
An endocrinologist is a medical specialist who sees people with diabetes, especially those with type 1 diabetes, or those who are pregnant and have diabetes.
Your GP has a central role in overall assessment and management. Visit your GP regularly and discuss any problems as soon as they arise. Other members of your team, including specialists, will link in with your GP.
The glycaemic index (GI) is a way of describing how a carbohydrate containing food affects blood glucose levels.
Refers to a raised level of glucose in the blood.
Refers to a low level of glucose in the blood.
A measure of, on average, how much glucose has been in your blood stream over the previous 2-3 months. It is reported either as a percentage (%) or in mmol/mol.
High density liproprotein cholesterol (otherwise known as 'good' cholesterol) is the type of cholesterol carrier which takes fats from our bloodstream, to our liver for processing. It is ideal to have high levels of HDL cholesterol as this can help prevent heart disease.
Ketones are compounds produced by the body when fat is broken down for energy. Small amounts of ketones in the bloodstream are harmless. However, in large amounts they can be extremely dangerous.
Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (otherwise known as 'bad' cholesterol) is the type of cholesterol carrier which deposits fat in our arteries. High levels of this cholesterol can lead to blockages in the arteries and heart disease.
This urine test measures how much albumin (protein) is released through the kidneys which can indicate kidney damage.
Damage to the big blood vessels that can lead to peripheral vascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Damage to the small blood vessels that can cause eye, kidney, feet and nerve problems.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, avocados and nuts, as well as olive, sunflower, peanut and canola oil. These fats help to increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol, which can decrease the risk of heart disease.
An ophthalmologist is an eye specialist who can monitor any changes in your eyes and provide treatment.
Your optometrist assesses eye health and prescribes your glasses.
Refers to nerve damage of the feet or hands.
Damage to the blood vessels in the legs and feet resulting in limited blood supply, pain and sensation changes.
A pharmacist prepares and dispenses drugs and medicine. They can also give you advice about your medicines.
A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can give advice about exercise choices.
A podiatrist will advise you on how to keep your feet healthy and treat foot problems.
A psychiatrist is a medical specialist who can help people who have emotional and psychological problems.
A psychologist counsels people with emotional and psychological problems and can help you make lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking.
A social worker can provide counselling to individuals and families regarding personal and family problems.
Saturated fats are found in foods like processed and fatty meats, full fat milk products, butter, coconut and palm oils. It is recommended you limit saturated fat in your diet as it can increase LDL cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Trans fats are found in some processed biscuits and commercially-made bakery products. They act the same way as saturated fats in the body so it's recommended we minimise our intake of these fats.
The type of carbohydrate refers to the glycaemic index (GI) of the food. The glycaemic index (GI) is a way of describing how a carbohydrate food affects blood glucose levels.
A type of fat found in the blood that the body uses for fuel or stores away.
Less stress and better moods
Exercise can help you get a better night's sleep
Carrying the groceries from the car won't feel so tiring
Lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Get stronger bones
Feel steadier on your feet