Exercise to Manage Your Heart Health.

Say "No" to Diabetes.

Singapore Heart Foundation

It can be as easy as 1, 2, 3…

If your blood glucose levels are high over time, you are more likely to develop atheroma, a fatty material that builds up on the lining of the arteries. The good news is that simple changes to your lifestyle, including exercise and diet, can help you to manage your diabetes as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)¹. It is not known to many that exercise has been considered a cornerstone of diabetes management. Historically, exercise was used and recommended by an Indian physician in order to promote a reduction in the sweetness of urine in patients with diabetes. He had linked diabetes to obesity and in his patients’ treatment plan, he advised to change their diets and engage in exercise i.e. sports².

Adjustment to food and exercise habits may require some extra effort initially, on top of the many other commitments one might have in living in this busy city of ours. The easiest way will be to start from what you do regularly, walking.


Even walking can be a form of exercise. In an article published by the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, it was reported that participants who were prescribed longer and faster walking exercises, had greater cardio-respiratory fitness at 6 months in comparison with those prescribed shorter, less intense exercise³. As a start, a person can attempt to increase his or her walking pace and choose to walk rather than to take bus if the journey is not too far.

Thereafter, he or she may consider including other forms of exercise or to increase the walking intensity. There have been studies which found that type 2 diabetes individuals who are already engaging in exercise may consider increasing the intensity of their exercise in order to gain additional benefits in both aerobic fitness and glycaemic control.

What is aerobic fitness?

High level of aerobics activity may be associated with lower cardiovascular and overall mortality. Aerobic exercise increases how fast your heart beats, raises your breathing rate, and works your muscles out. For the average person trying to lose weight, approximately 30 minutes per day, around five days a week should yield clear results.

However, if you are starting out on exercise and haven’t been active, much less than that can make a real difference. Apart from walking, which was discussed earlier, aerobic exercise for diabetics includes things like:

  • Dancing
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Cycling

…people with diabetes who walked at least two hours a week were less likely to die of heart disease than their sedentary counterparts, and those who exercised three to four hours a week cut their risk even more.

As exercise increases insulin sensitivity and the effect can last till 72 hours, it is recommended by the American Diabetes Association that a diabetic patient should not go more than 2 consecutive days without aerobic physical activity.

If you have diabetes, generally it is best to exercise one to three hours after eating, when your blood sugar level is likely to be higher. In an article by Harvard health, it is said that people with diabetes who walked at least two hours a week were less likely to die of heart disease than their sedentary counterparts, and those who exercised three to four hours a week cut their risk even more.

A small amount of effort goes a long way. If you are new to exercise, start slow. The time and intensity can be slowly increased over time. However, before getting started, these are a few steps to take:

  • Speak with a heath care professional on what exercise is suitable for you
  • Devise an exercise plan that may be suitable for you
  • Start slow with a plan that is easy to follow and begin with
  • At the same time, plan to adjust to a healthier diet

It is consistent effort that will go a long way. Do not attempt to overexert for a short period of time. Plan a way to stay physically heathy for a stronger and healthier heart.  


[1] Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes – American Heart Association. Obtained from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/why-diabetes-matters/cardiovascular-disease–diabetes [Accessed 18 September 2019]. [2] Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise – Endocrine Web. Obtained from: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/ type-2-diabetes/type-2-diabetes-exercise [Accessed on 14 September 2019]. [3] Riddell, M. C., and Sigal, R. J. (2013) Physical Activity, Exercise and Diabetes. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 37(6): 359 – 360. [4] Boule, N.G., Haddad, E., Kenny, G.P. et al. (2003) Meta-analysis of the effect of structured exercise training on cardiorespiratory fitness in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetologia, 46:1071 – 1081. [5] Church, T.S., Cheng, Y.J., Earnest, C.P., et al (2004) Exercise capacity and body composition as predictors of mortality among men with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27:83 – 88. [6] Sigal, R. J. et al. (2006) Physical Activity/Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 29(6): 1433 – 1438. [7] Ibid. [8] The importance of exercise when you have diabetes – Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Obtained from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/exercise-is-good-for-diabetes [Accessed 18 September 2019].