Physical activity

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

You can achieve this by:
  • Small amounts of physical activity will have positive benefits and is better than avoiding it all together.
  • Physical activity can range from low impact options such as gardening and housework to more intense options like cycling or gym classes.
  • Your doctor or an accredited exercise physiologist can help you get started with physical activity. They are also helpful if you have pain or limited movement.

Physical activity is any movement of the body that uses up energy. This energy comes from the glucose in your blood. Moving is an excellent way to reduce high blood glucose levels. This could range from walking, gardening, pushing a baby stroller, playing football to walking up and down stairs. To gain the most benefits from these activities you need to do them at a moderate to vigorous intensity, meaning doing them at a pace that raises your heart rate or makes you breathe harder than normal. Pick an activity that you enjoy, as this will help keep you motivated to continue.

The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week and two to three resistance exercise sessions each week. This can be spread over the week to suit you. The shortest time suggested for you to be physically active for, while still getting the health benefits, is 10 minutes.

 

Why is physical activity important for people living with diabetes?

Physical activity can improve how insulin works in the body. Insulin that works more efficiently in the body will help to lower your blood glucose levels overall.

Being physically active is important for your overall health, not just managing diabetes. Some of the benefits of regular physical activity are: 

  • Reduced insulin resistance and reduced blood glucose levels
  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels
  • Reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Improved joint and muscle movement, and stronger bones
  • Weight management
  • Improved ability to do everyday tasks
  • Better sleep

If you have not done regular physical activity in a while start slowly! Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you would like support in getting started with physical activity, talk to your doctor, an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist.

Important note

It is important for some people living with diabetes who take certain blood glucose lowering medications or insulin to monitor blood glucose levels before, during and after physical activity. You may be at risk of blood glucose levels dropping too low. Discuss this with your doctor or credentialed diabetes educator.

For more information on physical activity see our frequently asked questions below.

FAQs

Why should I be physically active?

Being physically active is important for your overall health, not just managing diabetes. Some of the benefits of regular physical activity are:

  • Reduced insulin resistance and reduced blood glucose levels
  • Reduced stress and anxiety levels
  • Reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Improved joint and muscle movement, and stronger bones
  • Weight management
  • Improved ability to do everyday tasks
  • Better sleep

The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week and two to three resistance exercise sessions each week.

What counts as physical activity?

Physical activity is any movement of the body that uses up energy. This could range from walking, gardening, pushing a baby stroller, playing football to walking up and down stairs. To gain the most benefits from these activities you need to do them at a moderate to vigorous intensity, meaning doing them at a pace that raises your heart rate or makes you breathe harder than normal.

Is physical activity safe for people living with diabetes?

For most people living with diabetes, physical activity is safe and an important part of managing your diabetes. If you are worried about your safety including physical activity into your day speak to your doctor, an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist.

I have not done regular physical activity for years, where do I start? 

Start slowly! Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. Make a plan of what you would like to achieve with your physical activity and break it down into simple steps. For example, if your goal is to walk 5km, start by walking 100m on the first day. Then the next day try 200m and so on. Always listen to your body and stop if you feel unwell (lightheaded, intense chest pain). If you continue to feel unwell, seek medical advice or contact your GP.  Over time, small daily increases in physical activity will add up to big improvements in fitness and strength. If you would like support  in getting started with physical activity,  talk to your doctor, an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist.

What if I don’t have time for physical activity?

Physical activity does not have to be completed all at once. For example, 30 mins can be spread out in three 10 minute sessions across the day. It might be useful to plan your day to fit in some time for physical activity. It is amazing how people often think they don’t have time but manage to watch two hours of TV a day. Another idea might be to do some physical activity while watching TV on an exercise bike or during the ad breaks. Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.

How can I include more physical activity in my life?

Including more physical activity into everyday life can be easy. Try these ideas:

  • Park your car further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way. This might add an extra five minutes of walking into your day.
  • Use a pedometer or fitness tracker to monitor how much movement you do. Aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. Some devices will remind you to move every hour if you have been sitting for too long.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator where possible.
  • Walk around the house while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  • Push the lawn mower faster to get your heart rate up a little bit more.
  • Aim to be active on most, preferably all days, every week.

I can’t afford to go to a gym, where else can I do physical activity?

Gyms can be expensive. Thankfully, there are many ways to be physically active that don’t require memberships or special equipment. Enjoy a walk, run or throw a ball with your kids in your local park or oval. There’s lots of space and often park benches you can used for stretching.

Do you want to build your strength at home? Try filling up old 2 litre milk bottles with water and using these as weights.

For more ideas about free or low-cost physical activity groups in your area, contact your local community health centre or council.

I don’t enjoy physical activity; how do I motivate myself to do it? 

Lots of people think physical activity is hard, sweaty work, like going to a gym or running. Luckily this is not the case. Physical activity is simply moving, and you can move in any way you enjoy and feel comfortable. It’s all good for you! If you are a social person, try group dance classes or walking with a friend. If you’re an early bird, going for a walk or ride first thing in the morning starts the day off well and gets it out of the way for the day. Whatever you decide to do, give it time. Don’t give up on it after one go, it will get easier.

Pain stops me from being active, what should I do? 

Physical activity does not have to be painful or exhausting. There are many activities that you can do that hopefully won’t increase your pain and over time may reduce the amount of pain you experience. Tai chi, stretching and water exercises are all low impact and don’t put much pressure on your bones, joints and muscles. Speak with an exercise physiologist to plan a safe physical activity routine that suits your pain or injury.

Am I too old for physical activity?

You’re never too old to get moving! Physical activity as we age can help maintain independence, recover from injuries or illnesses and reduce risks of chronic diseases. If you have not been physically active since you were young it might be a good idea to speak to your doctor, an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist to get a better understanding about how to start.

Search Diabetes Tasmania