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Living with diabetes? How 3 minutes can help your heart

A woman swaps heels for walking shoes in an office setting.


June 29, 2021—When you have diabetes, it raises your risk of heart disease and vascular problems. So finding ways to build heart-healthy habits into your life is especially important. And here's a simple one that can make a big difference: Taking frequent, short breaks from sitting can actually improve your heart and blood vessel health if you have type 2 diabetes.

Sitting for prolonged periods can decrease blood flow in your legs, which over time can hurt your cardiovascular health. But in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology–Heart and Circulatory Physiology, researchers found that when people did three minutes of exercise every 30 minutes, blood flow to their legs improved throughout the day. These short activity bursts worked even better than six-minute sessions once an hour.

What can you do in three minutes?

Here are eight easy ways to add three-minute exercises into your day at home or at work:

1. Ups and downs. Do one minute of squats, one minute of leg lifts and one minute of calf raises.

2. Rise and shine. Stand up and stretch your hands up to the sky, sit down and repeat, taking deep breaths throughout.

3. Cat and mouse. Toss a toy for your pet and race them to pick it up.

4. Child's play. Break out a jump rope, play a quick game of hopscotch, skip around the house or do some jumping jacks.

5. Here comes the sun. Do a quick yoga flow, like some sun salutations.

6. Standing meeting. While you're on the phone for a work meeting or talking to a friend, do calf raises, half-squats, arm circles and other silent moves to get your heart pumping.

7. Dance party. Rock out to your favorite song for three minutes.

8. Marching band. Run or march in place, pumping your arms to increase your heart rate.

The best news from the study is that you don't have to run a marathon to improve your cardiovascular health. Just a few minutes of activity at a time throughout your day can help keep your heart happy.

For more tips on healthy living with diabetes, visit our Diabetes topic center.

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