Whenever diabetes is part of a conversation, you can be assured questions will come up. There are many different angles and considerations when it comes to best practices and management, and the opinions you receive aren’t always going to mesh together.
One particular area that tends to receive a lot of questions is diabetes and exercise. Exercise and fitness are no doubt very important factors when it comes to good diabetes management, but there are understandably concerns about what is most effective and safest.
We stress the importance of taking care of your feet when you have diabetes, and for good reason! Is the danger you put to your feet with some fitness activities still worth it for the benefits of exercise, some ask?
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the myths that surround diabetes and exercise to get a clearer answer on that.
Myth: Exercising can make it more difficult to manage your diabetes.
This is a myth that tends to make the rounds and comes from misconceptions of experience.
The truth is that any sort of change in exercise or diet can cause fluctuations in blood sugar and other factors that may require adjustment in management. However, once you make those adjustments, steady exercise will make it much easier to manage diabetes in the long run!
You should always speak with your primary diabetic care physician before starting any sort of change in exercise or diet. They can help you determine the best ways to watch for and addresses any changes you might need to make in management as well.
This might involve gauging your blood sugar as you start out and taking a break to stabilize your blood sugar, if needed. Keeping a journal to track changes can help both you and your doctor. Once you learn more about how you react to exercise, you can take more consistent steps beforehand to negate these reactions.
For most people, however, steady exercise increases insulin sensitivity and results in less insulin being needed overall. It might be a bit of a pain to start, but the end results can be more than worth it.
Myth: Walking Won’t Help You Enough
Walking is an option many people with diabetes consider as a form of exercise. It is a much easier pursuit for many people; especially those with little prior exercise routine. It also reduces impact on the feet compared to running and other sports.
But is walking really going to have that much of an impact on your health? Is it really worth it?
You better believe it!
Brisk walking routines have been proven to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels as well as manage body weight. It also has benefits for your heart and circulation.
We’re not just talking about a little stroll down the block, though. The recommended amount of walking for best results is at least 30 minutes of walking for at least 5 days per week. The pace you will want to shoot for is 3-4 mph, which equates to covering 1 mile in 15-20 minutes.
If that isn’t a level you can achieve at this current time, do not force yourself to do it immediately. Gradually build yourself up to this level to help avoid any potential injuries.
Myth: You Shouldn't Exercise if You Have Peripheral Neuropathy
You should exercise if you have peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes. You just need to be more mindful of how you approach it.
The primary concern of diabetes’s effects on the feet are that peripheral neuropathy and a reduced ability to heal can leave injuries going unnoticed. These small cuts and sores may worsen into deep ulcers and infections without proper attention.
However, a good exercise program can aid circulation to the feet and help mitigate these effects. It’s a bit of a catch-22! …Except not really.
There may be certain high-impact forms of exercise you should limit or avoid entirely depending on the health of your feet (we can help you determine this, of course). But there are many forms of exercise that can be safely performed with the right attention and the right equipment.
If you have the right kinds of footwear and use the proper technique, you should avoid most of the troubles that can befall your feet. This may include diabetic shoes made for your activity, diabetic socks, and even custom-made orthotics to provide additional support and even distribution of body weight.
You can’t avoid everything though, just as you can’t avoid all the little injuries and accidents in everyday life. But that is why you perform a diabetic foot self-exam every day, right?
(Really, it is absolutely essential that you do!)
Keep on Moving
Don’t let diabetes keep you from achieving your fitness goals. Proper preparation, professional guidance, and plain old common sense are your best tools to working out effectively with diabetes and reaping the benefits well into the future.
As part of your comprehensive diabetic care plan, Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle can help keep you moving in the right ways, providing preventative care to avoid most trouble and the treatments you need should a sports injury or other misfortune happen.
Dr. Evan Merrill and Dr. Adam Gerber are here to provide foot and ankle care for all in Medford and the surrounding region. Give us a call at (541) 776-3338 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.