Feb. 15, 2022 – People with type 2 diabetes should try and increase their physical activity by any means necessary – but that doesn’t have to mean planned exercise routines.

That’s part of the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which has issued new recommendations for exercise and physical activity in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the past decade, there has been a "considerable amount" of research about exercise in people with type 2 diabetes, experts with the group write in a new set of guidelines published this month, while rates of diabetes in the U.S. has increased rapidly.

The updated document puts an emphasis on “physical activity,” not just planned exercise, and also urges people with diabetes to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting and not moving.

The latest guidelines apply to almost anyone with diabetes, including young people, with very few exceptions, lead author Jill A. Kanaley, PhD, said in a press release from the ACSM.

The key takeaway is that "all individuals [with type 2 diabetes] should engage in regular physical activity, reduce sedentary time, and break up sitting time with frequent activity breaks," said Kanaley, a professor at the University of Missouri.

"Exercise can play an important role in managing type 2 diabetes, and workouts can be modified to fit the abilities of most people,” she said.

And those with type 2 diabetes who want to lose weight “should consider workouts of moderately high volume for 4 to 5 days per week," she added.

Six Tips for Physical Activity for Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Regular aerobic exercise improves blood sugar management. Studies have shown exercise reduces blood sugar spikes and drops and lowers overall blood sugar levels.
  • High-intensity resistance exercise is better than low-to-moderate intensity exercise for blood sugar management and to help keep insulin levels steady. Resistance exercise, like weight lifting and push ups, has shown to improve strength, bone density, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity by 10 to 15%.
  • Exercise after meals, such as taking a walk after dinner at your own pace.
  • Reduce sedentary time by taking regular breaks for small "doses" of physical activity, which can help with blood sugar and insulin levels..
  • To prevent low blood sugar during or after exercise, people using insulin or pills that release insulin should increase carbohydrates, or if possible, reduce insulin.
  • People who are taking beta blockers should not rely on a heart monitor to measure workout intensity. A certified exercise professional can offer guidance on how to track your exercise effort by how a workout feels.