Lifestyle choices & Type 2 diabetes
Friday, May 01, 2020

While Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, research at Newcastle University has shown that it is not inevitably progressive and life-long – it can be reversed.

This research showed that many people who have had Type 2 diabetes for up to 10 years and changed their lifestyles to lose considerate amounts of weight led to their insulin secretion returning to normal.

Weight loss

  • Too much fat within the liver and pancreas prevents normal insulin action and prevents normal insulin secretion. Both defects are reversible by substantial weight loss.
  • It is recommended that overweight people with a BMI above the healthy range lose weight gradually (aim to reduce weight by 5% - 10% over a year) until a healthy BMI range is reached (between 18.5 and 24.9).
  • Weight loss can enable people with existing pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes to better control blood glucose levels.

Physical activity

It is recommended to engage in either 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise or 1.25 hours of intense exercise

Moderate intensity exercise includes:

  • Brisk walking
  • Cycling on flat terrain
  • Water aerobics
  • Hiking
  • Rollerblading
  • Using a manual lawnmower

Intense exercise includes:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming lengths
  • Cycling fast or over steep terrain
  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Skipping

Other practical advice from a former Type 2 patient when starting to increase your physical exercise includes:

  • Get checked by your GP before you engage with any physical activity that will increase your heart rate or make you breathless.

  • Prevent injury by getting fitted for a proper pair of running shoes.

  • Invest in some comfortable, breathable clothes for when sweat builds up when engaging in physical exercise.

  • If you can afford to, invest in a wearable fitness device that will record your physical activity.

  • Take your time – it took time to put on the weight so it will take time to lose it. As a rule of thumb: you must be able to carry a conversation – if you are gasping for breath you are over-doing it.

  • Continual training will increase your fitness level naturally.

  • Consider joining your local Athletic Club for access to training programmes, physiotherapists and the option to join fitness groups where you will meet others in the same boat who will motivate you.

  • Try out an 8 week “Couch to 5k” programme – and keep it up when the 8 weeks are done.

  • If you have a jog/walk/run planned but you feel down in the dumps that day, don’t let the negative thoughts win over. Go anyway, and when you finish you will feel 10 times better.

  • Don’t let the weather stop you getting your physical activity in (unless it is unsafe).

  • Take the compliments when people say you look great – remember you may be inspiring someone else.

Dietary changes

  • Decrease intake of saturated fat in your diet (chips, crisps, pastries, biscuits)
  • Replace refined carbohydrates with wholegrain foods
  • Increase intake of vegetables and other foods high in fibre like fruit, beans and lentils
  • If you are overweight, eat smaller portions to consume less calories
  • If you eat meat, choosing lean meats (skinless chicken and turkey) helps to cut down saturated fat
  • Eat less processed meat
  • Grilling and steaming food will cut down on fat intake in comparison to frying or roasting food


When we get stressed, our body responds with the threat response. This means stress hormones are released in the body, which causes:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • A surge in glucose levels
  • Activation of the immune system
  • Slowdown in digestion, growth and repair

This all happens within the threat response, as our body tries to ensure energy is used to fight or run away from the perceived “threat” that is causing us stress.

As a result, ongoing stress can make blood glucose control very difficult. A stress management technique like practicing mindfulness, exercising, sleeping well and talk therapy are simple and healthy ways to lower stress and thus control stress-related blood sugar changes.

By reducing stress levels, you also reduce your chances of developing diabetes-related complications such as:

For more information on making lifestyle changes to manage and even reverse your Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, please do not hesitate to contact the Diabetes Ireland helpline on 01 842 8118 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm) or


Information from Diabetes Ireland and