Diabetes & Keeping Fit For Dummies
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Exercise is a crucial part of managing your diabetes. If you've been mostly sedentary, start with mild or moderate exercise and progress slowly to prevent potential problems with any health complications. Brisk walking and other mild and moderate activities are generally safe to start on your own, but if you want to do vigorous activities, see your health care provider first to get checked for complications that certain activities may worsen.

Be prepared for the type of exercise you're doing. For example, invest in the right shoes for the activity and dress in layers so that you can add or remove clothing if you need to.

Following are some precautions for exercising with diabetes in addition to any health complications:
  • Carry a blood glucose meter to check your blood glucose level before, possibly during, and/or after exercise, or if you have any symptoms of a low.
  • Immediately treat low blood glucose during or following exercise with easily absorbed carbohydrates like glucose tablets or regular soft drinks.
  • Inform your exercise partners about your diabetes, and show them how to administer glucose or another carbohydrate to you should you need assistance.
  • Stay properly hydrated with frequent sips of cool water.
  • Consult with your physician prior to exercising with any of the following conditions:
    • High blood pressure
    • Neuropathy (nerve damage), either peripheral or autonomic
    • Foot injuries (including ulcers)
    • Proliferative retinopathy or current hemorrhaging
    • Kidney disease
    • Serious illness or infection
  • Seek immediate medical attention for chest pain or any pain or discomfort that radiates down your arm, jaw, or neck.
  • If you have high blood pressure, avoid activities that cause large increases in your blood pressure, such as heavy resistance work, head-down exercises, and anything that forces you to hold your breath.
  • Wear proper footwear, and check your feet daily for signs of trauma such as blisters, redness, or other irritation.
  • Stop exercising immediately if you experience bleeding into your eyes related to unstable proliferative retinopathy.
  • Wear a diabetes medic alert bracelet or necklace with emergency contact information.
  • Carry a cellphone with you when you exercise outdoors or alone.
No matter what you choose to do to be physically active, the most important thing is doing it. So many health complications associated with having diabetes long-term are preventable with healthful lifestyle changes — including regular physical activity. Even if you're already suffering from some of these long-term issues, you really don't have any excuses left for not getting moving to improve your health while you're alive.

The best advice is to use having diabetes as an excuse to exercise, not as a reason to remain sedentary.

About This Article

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The American Diabetes Association funds research to prevent, cure, and manage diabetes; provides objective and credible information; and delivers services to hundreds of communities. Dr. Sheri R. Colberg is a world-renowned Diabetes Motion Expert. She's a frequent lecturer on diabetes and exercise and a consultant for many groups and organizations, including the American Diabetes Association.

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