Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high, causing tissue damage. It falls into two types. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce any insulin, and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body isn’t producing enough insulin, or becomes resistant to insulin, and this type of diabetes can be prevented. Most cases of type 2 diabetes are associated with being overweight.

Exercise is one of the key interventions that can help people control or reduce weight, and reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. Physical therapists are experts in prescribing this as part of a structured, safe and effective programme.

The expert advice provided by physical therapists can also help people who have health complications as a result of diabetes. For example, they can help those who have lost limbs through diabetes-related amputations recover their mobility and adapt their environment so that they have independence. Physical therapists help people achieve a return to work, education, community participation and fulfilled lives.

Diabetes facts

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 180 million people worldwide have diabetes. This number is expected to double by 2030.

Source: World Health Organization factsheet

According to WHO, 4-5% of health budgets globally are spent on diabetes-related illnesses.

Source: World Health Organization factsheet


Prevalence of diabetes by WHO Region
Region 2000 2030 (predicted)
Africa 7,020,000 18,234,000
Eastern Mediterranean 15,188,000 42,600,000
Americas 33,016,000 66,812,000
Europe 33,332,000 47,973,000
South East Asia 46,903,000 119,541,000
Western Pacific 35,771,000 71,050,100
Source: World Health Organization

Exercise and diabetes

Exercise has a role in preventing diabetes and controlling diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days, along with a healthy diet, can singificantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Source: World Health Organization

Both resistance exercise and aerobic exercise are effective at reducing glucose intolerance and reducing the risk of diabetes.


High-intensity progressive resistance training, in combination with moderate weight loss, is effective in controlling blood glucose levels in older patients with type 2 diabetes.

Source: Dunstan DW et al. High-intensity resistance training improves glycemic control in older patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2002 Oct;25(10):1729-36.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on November 14. The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness.


This information may be freely reproduced with acknowledgement to WCPT. It is designed as a resource, and does not necessarily represent an official WCPT view or policy.


© World Confederation for Physical Therapy 2009