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Recommended exercise in diabetes

If you have diabetes, you are advised to engage in the same health-promoting exercise as everyone else. You can obtain advice on combinging diabetes and exercise from your own doctor and nurse.

Regular, diverse exercise improves your ability to function as well as your health. It can also prevent and help in the treatment of many illnesses. The beneficial effects of exercise on the heart, circulatory system, blood pressure, lungs, muscles, bones, mood and sleep for a person with diabetes are no different from other people.

Diabetes therapy or complications related to diabetes may restrict your ability to move. If you are just starting to exercise, are not accustomed to exercising, or plan to significantly increase your activity level compared to before, it is advisable to discuss this with your own doctor or nurse.

Everyone is free to choose a form of exercise which is suitable for them. With regard to the whole body, best results are achieved by exercising regularly and alternating between endurance training, muscle tone training and strength training. In terms of blood sugar metabolism or endurance, it does not appear to make a difference whether the training involves moderate training over slightly longer periods or intense repeated exercises.

Continuously sitting down or being otherwise static over a longer period of time has an adverse effect on the blood sugar metabolism, increases the risk of obesity, places a strain on the musculoskeletal system, may lead to pain in the neck or lower back region and cause swelling in the legs and feet.

A good rule of thumb is the 30/3 rule, i.e. after 30 minutes of sitting down, it is good to move around for 3 minutes.

Daily physical activity is a good way to increase your activity level. Daily physical activity includes walking your dog, brisk gardening, cycling to/from work, taking the stairs instead of the lift at the office, incidental exercise, such as picking berries or mushrooms, tidying up or walking to the supermarket from the bus stop. If the strain of doing the above is at least moderate, the health effect is similar to endurance exercise

Endurance exercise or aerobic exercise improves your oxygen uptake, strength and insulin sensitivity.

The recommendation is to engage in moderate endurance exercise for 30 minutes a day for at least 2.5 hours per week. You can also exercise for shorter periods of 10–15 minutes, for example. Endurance exercise entails brisk walking, cycling, swimming, running, skiing, ice skating, etc.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a quick way to increase the blood sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity of your muscles. It is also suitable for a person with diabetes without related complications. You should see your doctor before starting HIIT to establish its suitability. If you have not done any regular exercise in the past, you should first try to improve your basic fitness through endurance training.

Strength training increases your muscle mass and insulin sensitivity. It also has some effect on blood pressure, blood fat levels, the amount of fat in the midriff as well as bones.

The recommended level of strength training is 2–3 times a week but not on consecutive days. Persons of all ages can benefit from suitable strength training, including the elderly to maintain their ability to function. The strength training schedule can be tailored to individual needs, taking into account various musculoskeletal issues.

    Stretching 2–3 times a week is a good addition to endurance and strength training. The goal is to maintain the mobility of joints and muscles, which is reduced by ageing and years of living with diabetes. Balance training is recommended 2–3 times a week after your 50th birthday.

    Updated 30.9.2023