10 Evidence-Based Lifestyle Habits For Those With Type 2 Diabetes

Designing healthy lifestyle habits is a critical aspect of good diabetes control.

By: Lauren Panoff MPH, RD

Having type 2 diabetes often means making some lifestyle adjustments to better support blood sugar management and overall health. While your healthcare provider may prescribe certain medications as well, designing healthy lifestyle habits is a critical aspect of good diabetes control. Let’s uncover how lifestyle affects type 2 diabetes and some of the evidence-based habits to consider implementing for optimal outcomes. 

RELATED: The 7 Best Natural Sugar Substitutes For Those With Type 2 Diabetes

How Lifestyle Affects Type 2 Diabetes 

Lifestyle habits play a crucial role in the development, management, and even reversal, of type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition characterized by insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels. 

Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a sedentary routine, poor dietary habits, and excessive weight gain, significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and experiencing poor outcomes. For example, a lack of physical activity contributes to insulin resistance, making it harder for cells to utilize glucose effectively. 

Additionally, a diet high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and ultra-processed foods can encourage obesity and insulin resistance. Conversely, adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet can prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. Physical activity enhances insulin sensitivity, helping cells use glucose more efficiently, while a nutrient-dense diet promotes weight management and stabilizes blood sugar levels. 

Overall, lifestyle is a main factor in whether your diabetes is well-managed as well as your risk of experiencing adverse outcomes. Making positive lifestyle changes is pivotal in reducing these risks and managing type 2 diabetes effectively.

10 Evidence-Based Healthy Habits For Those With Type 2 Diabetes 

We all have a standard lifestyle we tend to lead, some aspects of which may either be helping or hurting our health and wellness. When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes well, it’s especially important to reflect on what you’re doing and identify areas where improvements can be made. Below are 10 evidence-based habits that have been shown to be beneficial for diabetes control.

#1 Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity is paramount for people who have type 2 diabetes. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to better utilize glucose. 

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise per week, which could be split into 30-60-minute sessions. Include strength training exercises, such as using dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands, or body weight.

RELATED: Science Says These Types of Exercise Are Best For Lowering Blood Sugar

#2 Balanced Diet

Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for health regardless of whether you have diabetes. Focus on minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, and whole grains. 

Monitor carbohydrate intake to manage blood sugar levels effectively, and pair them with healthy fats and proteins. Limit the consumption of ultra-processed foods and those high in saturated fat and added sugar. 

#3 Portion Control

Controlling portion sizes is key to managing calorie intake and preventing overeating. Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can help stabilize blood sugar levels and promote better weight management.

#4 Regular Monitoring

Keep track of blood sugar levels regularly to understand how different foods and activities impact them. This information is valuable for making informed decisions about diet, exercise, and medication management. 

For instance, you might wear a continuous glucose monitor to determine which foods and activities are best and worst for your blood sugar control.

#5 Hydration

Water makes up around 75% of your body weight, and it needs to be replenished. Staying well-hydrated is essential for overall health. It can also aid in managing blood sugar levels. 

Choose water as your primary beverage and limit the intake of sugary drinks (like soda, juice, and sports drinks), which can contribute to excess calories and blood sugar spikes.

#6 Stress Management

Chronic stress can negatively impact not only your mood and mental health but also your blood sugar levels. Incorporate stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness, meditation, nature walks, or yoga into your routine to promote emotional well-being and glycemic control.

#7 Adequate Sleep

Prioritize getting sufficient, quality sleep. Lack of sleep can affect insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, potentially leading to elevated blood sugar levels. 

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. To support improved sleep, try to follow a consistent sleep-wake cycle, avoid screens close to bedtime, and create a routine to help you wind down at night.

#8 Regular Medical Check-Ups

Even if you’re not experiencing problems, preventive health is critical. Regularly monitor and manage your health with the guidance of healthcare professionals. This includes routine check-ups, eye exams, and foot care to detect and address potential complications early.

#9 Smoking Cessation

Quitting smoking is crucial for individuals with type 2 diabetes, as smoking can exacerbate the risk of cardiovascular complications. Seek support and resources to quit smoking and improve overall health.

#10 Social Support

Building a strong support system is vital for emotional well-being. Share your diabetes management journey with friends, family, or support groups to receive encouragement, motivation, and understanding.

Lifestyle is Key

From regular exercise and a balanced diet to stress management and adequate sleep, healthy lifestyle habits are essential for taking control of your health. The journey of managing type 2 diabetes is unique for each person, and personalized approaches, guided by healthcare professionals, are important. By embracing these evidence-based habits, you can not only better manage your blood sugar levels but also reduce the risk of complications and improve your quality of life.