Diabetes Type 2

Exercise and weight control for diabetes type 2

Most people with diabetes are advised to increase the amount of exercise they take. Diabetes UK for example advises people to try to walk (or cycle, or swim) for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week. Taking regular exercise will help lower blood glucose levels and should, if combined with healthy eating, help most people lose weight. Taking regular exercise is good for the heart and can help reduce blood pressure. All kinds of exercise including swimming, walking, fishing and karate had made many people we talked to feel much better about themselves and their diabetes. 

Not everyone wants to take 'exercise' in a formal or structured way. It may suit some people much better to do extra bits and pieces of physical activity in the course of their daily lives. Strategies such as getting off the bus one or two stops early and walking the extra distance to work or the shops or going out for a walk at lunchtime, were two kinds of informal exercise that people said had helped them lower their blood glucose levels and also lose weight.

Those who felt they did not exercise enough and those who used to exercise regularly but no longer did so, gave a variety of reasons for not getting round to regular exercise. Reasons included the cost and time that could be involved in taking exercise - several people said they couldn't afford gym membership, others said they felt too tired after a day's work to go out and exercise. Several people said that they were too busy with other more immediate problems in their lives such as caring for their families to devote time to themselves. Several people said they just didn't like taking exercise.

Swimming was favoured by many people - particularly those who had problems with their feet or people who for whatever reason found walking didn't suit them. However several people said they would go swimming more often if there were special swimming times or classes for people with diabetes. Several people said they felt embarrassed by their size and what other people might be thinking of them when they went swimming which could put them off (see our health & weight section for more on exercise). 

Weight control
These days being overweight is usually calculated by your Body Mass Index (BMI) which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. If you have a BMI of 30 or over it is recommended that you lose weight. BMI within the healthy range according to NHS Choices is:

  • 18.5 - 24.9kg/m² for the general population
  • 18.5 - 22.9kg/m² for people of South Asian or Chinese origin ('south Asian' means Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indian-Caribbean, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka)

Losing and keeping weight down was a constant battle for many people we talked to. People who knew they were overweight talked about the various diets they had tried, few of which worked out in the long run. Some people who had always seen themselves as fit and who had enjoyed sports such as rugby or football when they were younger, found it difficult to accept their weight in middle age. 

Those having kidney dialysis explained that it was essential that they kept their weight under control for their treatment to work.
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Many people had tried lots of different commercial diets but many had found it difficult to motivate themselves to keep the weight off once they had reached their target. 

Some people wanted a lot more support to help them lose weight and develop a healthier approach to eating, dieting and exercise. Several women explained that they had trouble controlling their size and weight since childhood, and that knowing they were eating the wrong kinds of food for them, binge-eating, and even crash dieting might be forms of self-harm. Several women attributed the problems they were having with food, to things that had gone wrong for them when they were younger. (See 'Depression, feeling low and mood swings'.)

For more information on weight control see our health & weight section or resources section for links to further information.

Last reviewed March 2016.

Last updated March 2016.



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