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Three Minutes Every 30 Minutes – New Exercise Recommendation for Diabetes and Prediabetes

Updated: 8/14/21 5:00 amPublished: 11/25/16

By Lynn Kennedy

The American Diabetes Association recently released a position statement with new evidence-based recommendations on physical activity and exercise for people with diabetes and prediabetes. A big point is the 3-for-30 recommendation: do three minutes of light physical activity – such as leg extensions or walking – for every half hour spent sitting still. While regular activity is great for all people, the ADA statement specifically makes a very big deal about the benefits regular interruption of inactivity can have for people with type 2 diabetes.

According to the ADA, adding regular, light physical activity - anything that increases energy use – to one’s routine, alongside longer and more structured exercise (e.g., jogging or strength training), can improve blood glucose and insulin sensitivity. Other benefits of regular movement, including light, frequent activities and regular exercise, are improved heart health and weight loss.

The comprehensive guidelines include specific recommendations for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. Consistent across the recommendations for diabetes types is the importance of interrupting periods of prolonged sitting with light physical activity in addition to exercising regularly.

Examples of light activities to intersperse with sitting include:

  • Walking

  • Leg lifts or extensions

  • Overhead arm stretches

  • Desk chair swivels

  • Torso twists

  • Side lunges

Other daily activities that reduce sitting time – such as running errands, walking the dog, and gardening – are also great for improving health. Many activity trackers and watches now have reminders to get up every hour, a feature some find useful.

Key recommendations from the position statement, viewable here, include:

  • Do 2.5 hours (or more) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week;

  • Exercise on at least three days per week;

  • Do three minutes of light activity (e.g., leg extensions or walking) per 30 minutes spent sitting still;

  • For children with diabetes: Spend an hour or more per day doing aerobic activities, with strengthening activities included at least three times per week;

  • For older adults with diabetes: Participate in two-to-three flexibility and balance activities per week (e.g., yoga) to combat ageing effects that can be exacerbated by high blood glucose;

  • For people with type 1 diabetes: Check blood glucose before, during, and after physical activity and exercise – CGM is a great tool for this – and adjust carb intake and insulin as needed (see more specific tips in Adam’s Corner here);

  • And for women with or at risk for gestational diabetes: Spend at least 20-30 minutes per day doing moderate exercise [Editor’s Note: Speak with a healthcare professional about which exercise options are best for you].

What kind of regular physical activity works well for you? What makes it easy or hard to be active? Let us know!

For more on physical activity and diabetes, check out:

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