Before you make any changes to your physical activity levels please speak to your healthcare team particularly if you are taking medication for your diabetes. 

Physical activity has positive effects on all areas of your health and wellbeing and is a very important part of weight management. In relation to diabetes, it either helps with reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or if you have diabetes, help improve your control. 

When you’re active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin which means that they are better equipped to draw glucose out of your blood and into the cells to make energy. The increased activity makes the muscles need more glucose which in turn reduces the glucose levels in the blood.

There’s not one type of activity that’s best for diabetes, it’s about finding what works, what you enjoy, and what time you have. Try and think about what can fit into your life rather than the other way around.

How much exercise do I need to do?

National guidelines state that adults should aim to get 150 minutes of weekly physical activity. This equates to around 30 minutes of moderate activity, or 15 minutes of vigorous activity, five days a week.

Weekly exercise recommendations for adults (aged 19 – 64 years)

These guidelines are also suitable for disabled adults, pregnant women, and new mothers. Make sure the type and intensity of your activity are appropriate for your level of fitness. Vigorous activity is not recommended for previously inactive people.

Clock face showing 150 minutes and icons representing moderate activity plus strength activity

  • 150 minutes of moderate activity such as three 30 minute walks and two 30 minute bike rides
  • Plus strength exercises on two or more days such as working with resistance bands and hill walking. 


Clock face showing 75 minutes and icons representing vigorous activity plus strength activity

  • 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as a 30 minute run, a 45 minute spin class 
  • Plus strength exercises on two or more days such as working with resistance bands and hill walking. 


Clock face showing 90+ minutes and icons representing vigorous activity plus strength activity

  • 90 – 120 minutes mix of moderate and vigorous activities
  • A mix of moderate & vigorous activities, such as two 30 minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate activity
  • Plus strength exercises on two or more days such as working with resistance bands and hill walking. 

Weekly exercise recommendations for adults aged 65 years and over

Adults aged 65 or older who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility, should try to be active every day. The more you do the better, even if it is just light activity.

If you are worried about falling, doing exercises to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility will help make you stronger and feel more confident on your feet. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about exercising.

What is moderate activity?

Your heart rate will be raised, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. You will still be able to talk, but not sing. •Brisk walking •Water aerobics •Riding a bike (flat surface) •Dancing •Pushing a lawn mower 

What is vigorous activity?

You should be breathing hard, fast and not able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Running Fast swimming Riding a bike (fast or up hills) Football, rugby, netball or hockey

What are strength activities?

To get health benefits, you should do muscle strengthening exercises to the point where you need a short rest before repeating them. •Yoga •Pilates •Carrying heavy shopping •Heavy gardening •Exercises that use your own body weight, e.g. push ups, sit ups etc.

Setting a goal

Setting small achievable goals gives you something to work towards and it’s a great way to measure your progress. Wearable fitness trackers are a good way to monitor your activity levels and you can set up step/distance goals or reminders to move every hour to reduce your time sitting. Most smartphones now come with a health kit that automatically tracks your activity, or you can download an app that will do this for you. 

Get fit with friends

Finding someone to exercise with is great for motivation and it helps you stick to any physical activity plans you have together.

It's much easier to talk yourself out of going on that run, whereas if you've already committed to doing it with a friend, you are much more likely to do it. Having a fitness buddy also makes physical activity more fun and turns it into a social experience which reinforces the positive feelings you get when you do it.

Making a plan

Life can be so busy that you can easily drop physical activity off your to-do list. Look at your week in advance so you can plan when to fit it in.

It could be a walk on your lunch hour, doing an exercise class at night with a friend, or going to the gym after work. Whatever you do, you’re more likely to do it if you’re prepared for it and it’s already planned.

Additional resources

For more information about how physical activity can help with preventing type 2 diabetes or help with the management of type 2 diabetes, have a look at our Type 2 Diabetes Prevention, or My Type 2 Diabetes online courses.

Diabetes UK has some useful information on the benefits of exercise and how to manage blood glucose levels during exercise. 

You can find out what activities are happening in your area using the That Counts! activity finder or you can check out the Get Local section. 

Tracking your Progress

Registering for My Way Diabetes will allow you to track your progress on your weight loss journey, you will be able to see your weight, BMI, and waist measurement, click here to register.