Diet and lifestyle changes are very important for keeping blood sugars under control, and for lowering the risk of complications from diabetes such as heart, kidney, foot, and eye problems. However, many people with type 2 diabetes have not exercised regularly for a long time. Some might even think that anyone who exercises is either a long-distance runner or a weightlifter. This is not true, and anyone with diabetes can usually exercise. Start by making a commitment to being more active by finding something that you like to do.

Canadian diabetes experts recommend that people with diabetes complications (e.g., eye, kidney, nerve problems) or underlying heart conditions first talk to their physician or primary health care provider before starting an exercise program that involves more than brisk walking. If you're not sure if you have diabetes complications or heart disease, talk to your doctor before exercising. Even with this recommendation, rest assured that most people with diabetes will be able to exercise.

Experts suggest that all people with diabetes should try to do 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous endurance (cardio) activity each week, spread over at least 3 days of the week and without missing 2 days in a row. Moderate intensity exercises are any activity done at a level that makes your heart beat faster than normal.

Endurance exercises can easily become part of your regular routine. It can be simple activities such as going for a walk, or doing household chores or yard work such as vacuuming or raking leaves.

Experts also recommend doing some resistance exercises at least 2 times, and preferably 3 times, per week. Resistance exercises are commonly thought of as weightlifting, but they can also be any exercise where you lift or push something, including your own body weight.

Table 1 lists some examples of moderate intensity endurance and resistance exercises.

Table 1 - Endurance and resistance activities for people with diabetes

Exercise Types Expert Recommendations

Endurance exercises

  • biking
  • brisk walking
  • dancing
  • raking leaves
  • skating
  • tennis


  • People with diabetes should try to do 150 minutes per week spread over at least 3 days of the week.
  • Most people should try to do about 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • If 30 minutes of exercise is too much at one time, you can break it up into 10-minute segments of physical activity 3 times per day.

Resistance exercises

  • weight training
  • sit-ups and push-ups
  • heavy yard work
  • lifting and carrying groceries


  • People with diabetes should do resistance exercises 2 to 3 times per week.
  • Consider talking to a personal trainer at a gym to help you design a weight training program specifically for you.