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Family Foot & Ankle

Should I Be Active If I Have Diabetes?

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Many people with diabetes are nervous about engaging in exercise or vigorous physical activity. To a certain extent, that’s understandable. One of the most frustrating aspects of diabetes is how it makes you more vulnerable to injury, particularly in the feet and lower legs. If you’re suffering from neuropathy and/or poor circulation, it’s easy to miss a minor injury long enough for it to become a big problem.

On the flipside, though, regular exercise is an absolutely critical component of diabetes management and treatment. Living an active lifestyle has huge benefits for a person with diabetes—weight loss, better sugar regulation, better cholesterol and blood pressure regulation, better blood flow to the feet, cells that are more efficient at absorbing nutrients, and more. Getting or staying in shape and remaining active is one of the best ways to keep your condition from getting worse, and therefore preventing complications.

So what’s the way forward? You absolutely should be active, but you should do so responsibly and safely.

Low Impact ExerciseOne component of this approach is the activities you choose. Depending on the current severity of any neuropathy or circulatory problems, high-impact sports or running might not be the best choice for you. However, there are many lower-impact aerobic, strength, and range-of-motion exercises you can and should perform instead. This can include activities like brisk walking, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), swimming, and weight training.

Another component is protection. Always make sure you’ve got the right gear for your activity—comfy shoes that fit you well, breathe well, and are a good fit for the sports or activities you’ll be engaging in.

Finally, understand how exercise is going to affect your sugar levels and prepare accordingly. Always test yourself before, after, and if necessary, during activity at regular intervals. Stay hydrated, and always pack some quick-acting carbs in case your sugar drops too low. It’s a great idea to keep a record of how your sugar fluctuates in response to different activities so you know what to expect in the future.

You should shoot for at least 30 consecutive minutes of moderate exercise, in combination with staying active throughout the day—avoid remaining sedentary for long stretches of time.

If you have diabetes, it’s wise to check in with a physician before beginning any new exercise program, in order to ensure that you stay safe and get the most effective results for your effort. To schedule an appointment with any of our foot specialists at one of our six convenient Greater Cincinnati locations, please call us today at (888) 689-3317.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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