Exercise and Diabetes: Not Mutually Exclusive

Increasingly, medicine recognizes the important role exercise plays in a healthy life. It’s crucial for maintaining a strong body, contributes to your mental health, and can even affect some diseases. Unfortunately, conditions like diabetes make exercising difficult because of so many increased risks for problems. That doesn’t mean, however, that exercise and diabetes are mutually exclusive. In fact, being active is even more important with this chronic condition.

The Positive Effects of Exercise

What types of exercise are best for diabetes?Exercise does a lot for your body, both with diabetes and without. It works your heart and lungs, improving their function and boosting your circulation. It strengthens your muscles and bones, making them more stable and, in some cases, less prone to injury. It helps you control your weight. It even helps improve mood, boosts energy, and improves sleep.

When you have diabetes, there are other positive effects that actually control your condition. Regular physical activity helps your body metabolize and use the sugar in your blood without using insulin, while also making your cells more sensitive to insulin. This lowers your blood sugar levels. The boost in your circulation can help you control or prevent negative effects in your lower limbs, like neuropathy and vascular disease. It also improves your balance and builds muscle strength while burning fat.

Diabetic Complications

Of course, because diabetes comes with so many side effects that increase your risks for infections and injuries, it can be difficult to exercise safely without putting yourself at risk for problems. Neuropathy and poor circulation leave feet numb, weak, and uncomfortable. As a result, small blisters can easily deteriorate into ulcers that could become infected. Diabetic retinopathy is a problem with leaking blood vessels in the back of the eye that causes a loss of vision. Certain exercises could exacerbate this problem. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can also damage your kidneys, weakening them. Some exercise could worsen this problem, too, if you aren’t careful.

Accommodating Diabetes in Your Exercise

However, these risks are not a reason to avoid physical activities. The positive benefits of exercise with diabetes far outweigh the risks. Instead, you need to learn to accommodate your diabetic complications when you’re active so you don’t increase the damage while you work out. Working with physical therapy experts like Dr. Jennifer Molner can help you make a plan to take care of your body and avoid injuries when you exercise.

Low-impact aerobic exercises and strength training are some of the best and most effective workouts when you have diabetes, even with complications. Options like walking, swimming, biking, water aerobics, stretching, rowing, weight lifting, resistance band training, and even gardening all make excellent workouts. They boost your heartrate and work your muscles without over-straining your limbs—particularly your feet. However, you will still need to wear correctly supportive shoes and check your feet for damage afterwards to prevent ulcers. If you have issues with diabetic retinopathy or kidney disease, you may need to avoid heavy lifting or bending over too far, but aerobic activities done in moderation can still benefit you.

Physical activity is a vitally important part of living a healthy life with diabetes. It does pose some risks, but if you invest in your foot care and take steps to accommodate any other diabetic complications, you can get the positive effects of exercise without the problems. Let our physical therapy experts at Castle Pines Physical Therapy and Cherry Creek Physical Therapy help you establish health routines that are tailored just for your needs. You can make an appointment at our Castle Pines office and Cherry Creek office in Denver, CO by calling (303) 805-5156. You can also use our website to request more information.