For quite some time, the value of exercise for people with diabetes has been well-known. In fact, diabetics who get regular exercise enjoy much more control of blood sugar levels than do those who are sedentary. Regular, daily exercise is an effective tool in keeping diabetics’ blood sugar levels in check and can improve the efficacy of insulin doses by as much as 100%.
Even though the value of exercise for diabetics is common knowledge, many diabetics and their family members are worried that exercise may present too much of a challenge or expose the person with diabetes to potential harm and injury. While this is surely something to consider, the fact is the benefits of regular light-to-moderate exercise far outweigh any pursuant risks.
A good program of regular exercise should include about two hours of aerobic exercise weekly. This does not have to be performed all at once, and it is more likely you will participate in it if it is enjoyable. Choose from activities you love, such as dancing, cycling, playing sports and games, swimming, brisk walking and/or running.
In addition to aerobic exercise, weight training is important to build strength and endurance. Doing light weight training can help boost your metabolism and improve bone density. Your best bet is to alternate days. Do aerobic exercise one day and weight training the next for a balanced, enjoyable workout schedule.
1. Take Wise Precautions
To be sure of developing and following a safe exercise program, you should begin by consulting with your doctor and getting a complete physical. Talk with your doctor about the types of exercise that would be safest and most effective for you.
When you begin your exercise program, be sure to check your blood sugar levels frequently. It’s a good idea to check once prior to exercise, once during an hour of exercise and once after. Be sure to keep up other regular checks to monitor your blood sugar levels on an ongoing basis.
2. Be Careful Of Your Feet
Of course, increased activity for people with diabetes may also mean increased concern for foot care. More exercise means better circulation, and that can only be a good thing for diabetics experiencing neuropathy in the extremities; however, it still behooves diabetics to take special care of their feet. Follow this advice for foot care for active diabetics.
3. Be Aware Of The Hazards Of Neuropathy
If you suffer from diabetic neuropathy, your feet may not sweat. This can cause the skin to become cracked, dry and open to infection. Be sure to use a high quality moisturizing foot cream nightly. Coat your feet well (avoiding the area between the toes) and put on cotton socks to keep your feet warm and support the absorption of the cream.
Neuropathy may also prevent you from feeling injuries and problems with your feet. This is why it is so important to inspect your feet thoroughly every day. Even if you don’t have neuropathy, this is a good idea just to be on the safe side. If you have difficulty seeing the soles of your feet, use a mirror.
Examine your feet daily for signs of complications. This is especially important if you experience neuropathy as you may not feel it if you develop a sore, blister or some other compromising condition. Look for:
- Toenail Fungus
- Broken Skin
- Hot Spots
Also, be sure to check your shoes daily for excessive wear, damage and foreign objects. It is important to wear properly fitted shoes in good condition. Use prescription or over-the-counter orthotics and inserts as needed for proper support.
4. Follow These Steps For Good Foot Care
Every day be sure to:
- Wash your feet carefully with gentle soap and warm water.
- Dry your feet completely and dust them lightly with foot powder.
- Be especially careful to powder the area between your toes.
- Gently smooth rough spots with a pumice stone.
Once a week be sure to trim your toenails carefully. You can cut straight across or follow the natural curve of the nail, but don’t cut in too closely near the cuticles. This can cause painful, dangerous ingrown toenails.
When you have your annual physical, be sure your doctor examines your feet carefully. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist for specialized care. Take this referral seriously and follow through with all instructions you receive from your doctor or podiatrist.
5. Avoid Endangering Your Feet
- Protect your feet. Always wear shoes, slippers, sandals or flip-flops. Foot injuries can lead to severe complications for diabetics (e.g. amputation).
- Don’t soak your feet because this can soften the skin excessively, and if you have any small injuries on your feet, soaking can allow bacteria to enter.
- Don’t moisturize between your toes as this can also soften the skin excessively and set up an ideal environment for fungal growth. Don’t forget to check out this guide on how to get rid of fingernail fungus.
- Keep your feet at a regular temperature. Don’t allow them to become overheated or chilled.
6. Follow A Sensible Plan For Success
For people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a sensible program of exercise can help attain blood sugar goals and establish and stabilize blood sugar levels. Regular exercise also helps diabetics (and all people) reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The key to establishing a successful diabetic exercise program lies in regular consultation with your doctor, moderation and common sense.