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How to Exercise with DiabetesWe don’t need to tell you that exercise is good for everyone. Benefits include improved energy and endurance, increased strength and flexibility, and psychological benefits like stress relief and improved mood. Exercising with diabetes can be especially valuable, though. Regular exercise lowers blood sugar levels, since active muscles require extra glucose. Better physical fitness and stronger muscles and bones can help stave off the deleterious effects normally associated with diminished circulation, such as osteoporosis and nerve damage. It can also greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, because of your condition, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if it’s safe before exercising with diabetes, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while, or have foot sores that could be aggravated. Additionally, there are a few extra things you have to watch for.

Checking Your Sugar Before - and During - Exercise

You don’t want your blood sugar spiking upward or falling like a rock while you exercise; you want it to remain at a stable level. Test your sugar about half an hour before you exercise, then again every half hour or so, and one final time after you’ve finished your routine. Your target range throughout your workout should be somewhere between 100 and 250 mg/DL. Any lower, and you’ll need to eat a carb-rich energy snack (try fruit or crackers) to increase your blood sugar to a safe level. Any higher, and you run the risk of dehydration and ketoacidosis—a definite no-no. Wait for the level to come down before beginning (or restarting) activity.

Listen to your body. If you start shaking or feeling fatigued, stop immediately and eat or drink something to raise your blood sugar back to a safe range.

Your Gear and “Survival Kit”

Diabetes especially affects your feet, ankles, and legs, so make sure you care for and protect them—especially if you suffer from complications such as neuropathy. Make sure you wear protective, well-fitting shoes that properly support and cushion your feet for whatever kind of activity you’re engaged in. We can also help you find custom shoes or design custom orthotics that disperse your weight evenly across your foot and reduce painful pressure points and friction.

Bring along any supplies you may need to deal with any medical issues such as cuts or blisters. Again, this is especially important if you’ve lost some sensation in your feet. Check your feet regularly to make sure no injuries are festering. Remember to carry a carb-rich snack with you in case your sugar gets too low.

Top Activities for Exercising with Diabetes

Aerobic activities that get your heart pumping and performance are great exercise for diabetes. That’s because it helps make your insulin work better, strengthens your cardiovascular system, and improves blood flow—all things that are normally impaired by the disease.

If you’re worried about damaging weak bones in your feet or legs, you may want to stick to lower-impact exercises. Choose brisk walking over jogging or running. Cycling, swimming, and water aerobics are also great cardiovascular exercises that put limited stress of feet and joints.

Strength training twice per week can also boost muscle and bone strength, which is great for a couple of reasons. First, stronger muscles boost metabolism and burn calories even at rest. That improved baseline automatically makes managing your blood sugar and symptoms more effective. Second, strength training works against muscle and bone damage associated with the disease and helps shield against injury. Try making weightlifting or resistance training a part of your weekly routine.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

The experts at Foot Doctor of the East Bay want to help you stay active and manage your disease so that you can remain healthy and independent and stay on your feet. Whether you need a regular checkup, treatment for sudden pain, wound care, or fitting for custom shoes or orthotics, we’re there to support you. Give us a call at (510) 483-3390 to set up an appointment in one of our three convenient offices—all just a quick drive from the three Bay Area anchors—San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Photo Credit: ThePhotoholic via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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