Diabetes and Physical Activity- Start Smart
Michelle Dennison-Farris RD/LD BC-ADM, CDE
Oklahoma Diabetes Center Dietitian Diabetes Educator
Physical Activity can be a very scary word. Lots of negative feelings and thoughts often accompany the words Physical Activity or Exercise. Physical Activity, however, is one of the best things that a person with diabetes can do keep their body healthy.
Physical activity not only helps you to feel better and lifts your spirits but it also lowers your blood sugar, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And Physical activity doesn’t have to be hard. Physical activity can be anything from marching in place during those commercial breaks to doing leg lifts under your desk at work. Every little bit helps. The more you move, the better control you will have on your diabetes.
If you haven’t been physically active for a while it’s smart to start small. Often times when we get motivated to exercise we are really motivated. We get so motivated that we over do it and then end up paying for that exercise with soreness for the next couple of days. This is not the safe or smart way to exercise. Perhaps instead of trying to run 2 miles on your first day you should start with walking ½ mile. Try a more achievable level for a few days and see how your feel. If you feel good, increase the time and intensity gradually. This will not only be better for your heart, but you will be more likely to stick with it, because you won’t be sore.
Foot care should also be considered with physical activity because so many injuries can occur during physical activity. To prevent foot injuries check your feet before and after any exercise for redness, swelling or wounds. Patients with advanced diabetic neuropathy should avoid repetitive and stressful exercise, like running, and all patients should check with their doctor before beginning an exercise program.
People often ask me how often I think that they should be physically active. I respond by asking how many days in the week do you have diabetes? Physical activity should be considered a treatment, like a prescription, for your diabetes. If you truly want to control your blood glucose and maybe even reduce how much medication you are taking, then your ultimate goal should be to be physically active every day. But remember, the smartest and safest way to begin any physical activity program is to start small and increase the time spent and intensity of physical activity as you get stronger.