How Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Should Approach Physical Activity

For individuals with type 2 diabetes, physical activity may improve insulin sensitivity and help bring elevated levels of blood glucose up to normal value. 

Before beginning an exercise program, individuals with type 2 diabetes should undergo a detailed medical evaluation of the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, feet and nervous system.  Individuals should also be evaluated for coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease and peripheral neuropathy. 

Physical Activity Guidelines for Diabetic Patients

Physical activity should start with a 10 minute warm-up consisting of walking or biking at a low intensity. This will prepare the muscles, heart and lungs for more vigorous exercises.  After a short warm-up, muscles should be stretched for another 5-10 minutes. 

At the end of an exercise program, a cool-down should bring the heart rate down to its pre-exercise level.  For people with loss of sensation in their feet, treadmill, jogging, step exercises and prolonged walking should be avoided.  Instead, recommended exercises include swimming, biking, rowing, chair exercises and arm exercises. 

For young individuals with diabetes, high resistance exercises using weights may be acceptable, but not for older individuals or those with a longstanding diabetes history.  All patients with diabetes will benefit from a moderate weight training program using light weights and high repetition exercises. 

Drinking water before, during and after exercise will help to avoid dehydration and prevent adverse effects on blood glucose and heart function.  Exercising in hot and humid weather should be taken with precaution and avoided altogether for older individuals with a longstanding history of diabetes. 

People with diabetic peripheral neuropathy often lose sensation in their feet.  During exercising, the use of silica gel or midsoles, as well as polyester socks is recommended to prevent blisters and keep the feet dry.  Individuals should also examine their feet for blisters or other damage before and after exercise.

Reap the Health Benefits Today!

Many studies have showed a beneficial effect of regular physical activity on carbohydrate metabolism and insulin sensitivity.  Physical activity may help to lose and maintain a healthy weight, as well as help to regulate cholesterol levels. 

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