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Why is physical activity so important for people with type 2 diabetes? Moderate exercise can improve the way your body handles glucose (sugar), making it less likely to "spike" after you eat. This, in turn, can reduce your risk of long-term diabetes complications. It doesn't have to be strenuous exercise, either. Walking, swimming, or even cleaning the house will do the trick.

Why People With Type 2 Diabetes Need to Stay Physically Active

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it can be a common and natural reaction to feel that your fate is sealed. However, there may be a silver bullet -- exercise! By eating healthier and establishing a good exercise routine, it is possible for some people to effectively control their type 2 diabetes.
 
One of the best things about exercise is that the benefits from doing it can be instantaneous, as well as long-term. Research has shown that a single session of moderate exercise can improve the way your body regulates glucose (sugar) and reduce the spikes in blood sugar that occur after you eat. So if you are procrastinating about exercising because you think it will take a long time to see the benefits, this should be a great motivation to get moving.
 
Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle is vital for those with type 2 diabetes. Although it is not the sole treatment for this condition, it can be a big step in controlling blood sugar levels. Combining exercise with a proper diet can, in some cases, be the best treatment option for many people.
 
One particular research study included people with type 2 diabetes who cut down their calories to 1,200 to 1,800 calories each day and engaged in approximately three hours of physical activity each week. After one year, nearly 11.5 percent of the participants no longer needed medication to maintain their blood sugar levels below the diabetes threshold.
 
While blood sugar levels play a major role in type 2 diabetes, deeper roots may also exist. These include a disorder of insulin and leptin signaling. Leptin is a hormone produced in your fat cells and is used to regulate your appetite and body weight. The pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood glucose. When your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released. In those who have type 2 diabetes, their cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, so blood sugar levels rise.
 
Having a resistance to insulin and leptin is often directly related to the food you eat and a lack of exercise. To help control (and perhaps even reverse) type 2 diabetes, you need to recover your body's sensitivities to insulin and leptin. One of the most effective ways to do this is with proper diet and exercise. This will also help reduce your risk for problems with your kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet and legs, teeth, and heart.
 
So what would an exercise program look like that is tailored to those with type 2 diabetes? We've compiled a group of activities that answers this very question.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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