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Want to Prevent Diabetes? Exercise!

Several studies show that moderate levels of physical activity, combined with losing weight, can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.   But, even when you are not able to lose as much weight as you would like, just staying physically active can help to prevent the disease.  This seems to be true for both men and women, regardless of ethnicity or race.

That is a huge incentive for millions of Americans whose bodies do not use sugar – also called “glucose” – normally. They may be on the brink of developing diabetes and, sooner or later, the health problems that result.


You can fight diabetes by being active! Learn why exercise is so important to living a diabetes-free life!

And, you do not have to exercise until you drop!  Moderate exercise such as brisk walking reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.  Even modest changes in exercise once or twice a day can reduce diabetes risk by as much as 46 percent – or nearly in half!   For example, “modest” changes could be adding:

  • 20 minutes of mild or moderate exercise


  • 10 minutes of strenuous exercise


  • 5 minutes of very strenuous exercise.

Make sure, however, to start slowly.  Gradually increase how long and how hard you exercise.


How much do I need to exercise to prevent diabetes?

If you are an adult at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, you should get at least 2.5 hours each week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity.  This is typically 30 minutes a day for 5 or more days each week.


Aerobic exercise is activity that is low intensity for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer.  During this time, you keep your heart rate at 60-80 percent of your maximum heart rate.    Examples of aerobic exercise include:

  • walking
  • running
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • cross country skiing
  • bicycling.


“Moderate” exercise means you are working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.  Moderate level activities are:

  • walking fast
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • water aerobics.


“Vigorous” exercise means you are breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up a lot. If you are exercising at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Vigorous level activities are:

  • jogging
  • running
  • fast cycling.


Children and adolescents are encouraged to do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.   They should also limit time they spend in front of a TV, computer, or playing video games to less than 60 minutes each day.


For pregnant women, higher levels of physical activity may reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.  Unless they have medical or pregnancy-related complications, pregnant women should engage in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week.


Need Help?


Key Points to Remember 

  •  Even modest changes in exercise once or twice a day can reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
  • Most adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day for 5 or more days of the week.
  • Children and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about preventing diabetes. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:



Colberg, SR., et al. “Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement executive summary.” Diabetes Care, v. 33 issue 12, 2010, p. 2692-6.


For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic.