News and insights brought to you by the International Diabetes Federation

Mature man doing squats at home

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in many parts of the world has restricted people’s ability to exercise as they are accustomed to. Gyms, sports centres and parks are either closed or harder to access and exercising outdoors is discouraged in many places, urban areas in particular. As a result, exercising at home has become increasingly common.

For people who go to the gym or exercise regularly, adapting their habits to the home environment is not an issue. It can however be challenging for people who are less active and need to stay in shape to manage their general health or a chronic condition like diabetes. Daily physical activity is an integral part of diabetes management, helping to maintain blood glucose at recommended levels. This is particularly important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as people living with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to the severe effects of the virus.

Here are some tips on how to make exercise simple and effective while staying indoors.

Walking and running

If you live in a big house or have access to a large enclosed space, you can burn hundreds of calories by simply running around for 30-60 minutes. If this is too much at the beginning, you can start by running for two or three 10-20 minute intervals per day. You will improve with time. If your living space is small and you do not have access to equipment like a treadmill, you can simply run in place while watching a favourite TV show or listening to music or a podcast.

Running up and down stairs is also a good option if you have access to them in your house, apartment or building. This exercise will strengthen your hamstring, calves, glutes, hips, and quads. To start, 30 steps each day are enough. If you do not have access to stairs, stepping up and down on a chair is also a great workout. Remember to be careful to avoid injuries.

Jumping rope

Rope jumping is an exercise that will get your heart racing, circulate your blood more efficiently and help burn those unwanted fats. It is also effective for strengthening muscles in the legs, arms, and lower body. Just like for running, you can start slow and then increase the speed as you perfect your skill. If your ceiling is not high enough or your indoor space is too small, you can do it on a balcony or terrace. If you do not have a rope in the house, you can improvise by tying t-shirts together to form a strong DIY skipping rope.

Daily physical activity is an integral part of diabetes management, helping to maintain blood glucose at recommended levels.


Managing stress levels is an important component of diabetes management. Yoga is known to reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being by helping people to develop the mind-body connection, control their breathing and stay relaxed. If you have never done yoga before, you can learn it through online classes or videos. Yoga comes in several variations that differ in intensity. Yin yoga, for example, is the least intense and focuses on holding stretches, which makes it ideal for a beginner. As you gain experience, you can try Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga, which are more intense. Yoga mats are inexpensive and you can also use a well-padded rug. It is important to have padding to protect your lower back if the floor is hard. With COVID-19, make sure to wash and sanitise your mat or rug regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and bacteria and the spread of the virus within your household.

 Lifting weights

You don’t need much space or equipment to reap the benefits of lifting weights. A few small dumbbells and kettlebells are sufficient and, if you don’t have them, you can make your own DIY equipment out of bricks, concrete or other household items. Check out online resources and YouTube videos for at-home workouts. Some exercises that you can try include standing overhead dumbbell presses, dumbbell rows and single-leg deadlifts.

If you don’t have time to do any of the activities above, cleaning or other household errands can also help to stay active and in shape. Try to keep busy as much as possible and remember that staying active is good for both your mental and physical well-being.

Whatever you do, remember to disinfect your equipment and workout areas before and after exercising. This is particularly important if you share a living space with other people. For people living with diabetes, it is also important to monitor blood glucose levels  before, during and after exercising.


Desa Romena is a personal trainer with over 10 years of experience. She likes biking trips and learning more about motorized bikes.

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