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Getting active and staying active

Being active can make you feel better, reduce your stress levels, keep your weight down and protect your health. Whether you have diabetes, or are taking steps to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, there are many reasons to get more active:

  • Being active will help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • It increases the amount of glucose used by the muscles for energy, so it may sometimes lower blood glucose levels
  • Being active helps the body to use insulin more efficiently, and regular activity can help reduce the amount of insulin you have to take
  • Losing any weight that may be necessary and maintaining a healthy weight will improve management of Type 2 diabetes
  • Being active strengthens your bones
  • You’ll be more mobile, less out of breath and you’ll sleep better
  • Daily physical activity has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How much activity do we need to do?

All physical activity counts, from doing the housework to running a marathon. The Department of Health guidelines recommend:

  • Under-fives: 180 minutes (three hours) each day, once a child is able to walk.
  • Children and young people: 60 minutes and up to several hours every day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Three days a week should include vigorous-intensity activities that strengthen muscle and bone.
  • Adults and older people: 150 minutes (two and half hours) each week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Muscle-strengthening activity should also be included twice a week.

Activity can be spread out through the day into bite-size chunks. One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on five days a week.

What is moderate physical activity?

Moderate-intensity activity will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.

What is vigorous intensity physical activity?

Vigorous-intensity activity means you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.


Top tips to getting active

Being more physically active often conjures up images of gym memberships, long-distance runs and aerobics in a leotard. But the great news is that you can become more active by making small changes to your lifestyle – you can fit it around your daily life, in your budget, and you don’t have to wear Lycra if you don’t want to. Follow our top tips help make your life more active. You could also discuss these options with your healthcare team.

1. Start slow

Doing just a little bit more than you did before will still make a difference. So build up gradually, and give your body time to adapt as your muscles strengthen. If you have any medical conditions, do speak to your healthcare team before starting any new activity.

2. Make small changes to your routine

Walking is free, and a simple way to improve your fitness. Beat the traffic and leave the car at home for small trips, or get off the bus or train one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. Other household activities, like hoovering, gardening and DIY also count.

3. Get fit with friends

Instead of meeting friends or family for a coffee or to watch TV, why not suggest doing something active? You could go for a walk in the park, visit the shops, play tennis or hit the dancefloor.

4. Find an activity you enjoy

Don’t be afraid to try new things. From aikido to zumba, there’s an activity for every letter of the alphabet. Was there a sport you did years ago you’d like to start again? Or is there a sports club or team near you you’d like to join?

5. Set yourself goals

You’re more likely to stick to your more active life if you set goals – be realistic with both short- and long-term goals. You can set your goals to be more challenging each time. Keep an exercise diary and tick off your achievements – you’ll be amazed at the improvement and progress you’ll see. When you reach a goal, plan a reward for your hard work like a relaxing massage.

6. Keep it varied

Once you are fitter and exercising regularly, vary your routine. Try swapping cycling on an exercise bike for cycling outdoors, or try a new class at the gym. If you are starting a new activity check with your healthcare team to see how this will affect your diabetes.

7. Don’t give up

Although your body benefits as soon as you become more active, you may not see visible changes straight away. It can also take time for your body to adapt to the activity, so keep going and set goals that are right for you.


Exercise and blood glucose levels

Activity may affect blood glucose levels both during and after exercise. Regular blood glucose checking will help you to understand how activity affects your blood glucose levels. Be aware of hypos. And remember to keep an eye on your feet too.