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Exercise for type 2 diabetes remission

We're going to explore whether exercise can help you put your type 2 diabetes into remission.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise, which can include all types of physical activity and moving more, has lots of benefits for your overall health. And it's also a way to manage your type 2 diabetes

Moving more can:

  • help your body use insulin better
  • lower your blood sugar levels, also known as HBA1c levels
  • help you maintain weight loss
  • lower your risk of diabetes-related complications

Exercise for type 2 diabetes remission

Moving more can help you lower your blood sugar levels long term. This is because when your muscles move, they use up sugar – also known as glucose – in the blood, bringing your blood sugar levels down.

But there’s no evidence that exercise alone can lower blood sugar levels enough to put type 2 diabetes into remission. It’s changes to your diet that you eat that are proven to do that.  

Exercise still plays a vital role though. A combination of changes to diet and exercise has helped people put their type 2 diabetes into remission. It’s also helped people maintain their weight loss, which is important for staying in remission.  

So, moving more can help whether you’re working towards remission, trying to stay in it, or just want to improve your blood sugar levels long-term.  

How much exercise should I do for type 2 diabetes remission?

How much exercise you should do when you’re trying to go into type 2 diabetes remission depends on: 

  • how much exercise you currently do  
  • what diet you’re following 
  • if you take medication to manage your diabetes. 

We always recommend speaking to your healthcare team before doing more exercise or starting to get more active. They’ll be able to give you guidance on what’s right for you.

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"I realised I needed to do some form of exercise but wasn't keen on the gym, it just wasn't for me so I took up running, not an activity I had done before. I went from feeling like I would die if I ran 50 yards, to running 3 miles without stopping. With the changes to my diet and incorporating exercise, my weight went down." – Read more of Paul's type 2 remission story

If you’re taking insulin or medications that can cause hypos (low blood sugar levels) like sulphonylureas, it’s especially important you speak to your healthcare team. This is because moving more can affect your blood sugar levels in different ways.

Some people find that their blood sugar levels go up during, or immediately after, exercise. Others find that moving more lowers their levels during and up to 24 hours after exercise. Your healthcare team can help you manage your blood sugar levels and advise on any treatment changes you may need to make so you can stay safe and benefit from moving more.

If you’re taking part in an NHS remission weight loss programme then you should follow the advice from your healthcare team about the levels of physical activity that are recommended at each stage of the programme. 

If you’re following a total diet replacement plan, make sure you speak to your healthcare team before making any changes to the level of physical activity you do. People who are on the NHS remission weight loss programme are advised not to take up any new activity during the total diet replacement phase. 

Where can I go for more information and support?

  • We have lots of information on diabetes and exercise on our website. 
  • Speak to your healthcare team if you would like to increase the amount of physical activity you do. They might be able to get you support with moving more too, as well as advise on any changes you may need to make to the amount of insulin or other diabetes medication you take.
  • You can get ideas and guidance from our online forum community. These are people who have experience of trying to put their type 2 diabetes into remission. There’s a space specifically for type 2 diabetes remission.
  • Learning Zone has three interactive video courses about moving more. 
Next Review Date
Content last reviewed
29 January 2024
Next review due
29 January 2027
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