Physical activity - diabetes; Exercise - diabetes
If you have diabetes, you may think that only vigorous exercise is helpful. But this is not true. Increasing your daily activity by any amount can help improve your health. And there are a lot of ways to add more activity to your day.
There are many benefits to being active. Staying active can:
While the focus of activity is often weight loss, you can benefit and become healthier from activity even without losing weight.
One of the best things you can do is get up and start moving. Any activity is better than no activity.
Clean the house. Walk around when you are on the phone. Take frequent, short breaks at least every 30 minutes to get up and walk around when using the computer.
Get outside of your house and do chores, such as gardening, raking leaves, or washing the car. Play outside with your kids or grandchildren. Take the dog for a walk.
For many people with diabetes, an activity program outside the home is a great option.
When you run errands:
At the end of your commute, get off the train or bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way to work or home.
If you want to find out how much activity you are getting during the day, use a wearable activity monitor or a step counting device, called a pedometer. Once you know how many steps you average in a day, try to take more steps each day. Your goal for better health should be around 10,000 steps a day, or progressively more steps than you took the day before.
There are some health risks to beginning new activity programs. Always check with your provider before getting started.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of having heart problems. They don't always sense the warning signs of a heart attack. Ask your doctor if you need to be screened for heart disease, particularly if you:
People with diabetes who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of having arthritis or other joint problems. Talk to your provider if you have had joint pain with activity in the past.
Some people who are obese may develop skin rashes when they start new exercises. These can often be prevented by choosing the right clothing. If you develop a skin infection or rash, often in skin folds, talk to your provider and make sure it is treated before you continue being active.
People with diabetes and nerve damage in their feet need to be extra careful when starting new activities. Check your feet daily for redness, blisters, or calluses that are starting to form. Always wear socks. Check your socks and shoes for rough spots, which can cause blisters or ulcers. Make sure your toenails are trimmed. Let your provider know right away if you have warmth, swelling, or redness across the top of your foot or your ankle.
Some types of vigorous exercise (mostly heavier weight lifting) can damage your eyes if you already have diabetic eye disease. Be sure to get an eye exam before starting a new exercise program.
American Diabetes Association. 5. Facilitating behavior change and well-being to improve health outcomes: standards of medical care in diabetes-2020. Diabetes Care. 2020;43(Suppl 1):S48-S65. PMID: 31862748 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31862748/.
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S76-S99. PMID: 24222015 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24222015/.
Lundgren JA, Kirk SE. The athlete with diabetes. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee & Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 18.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 5/13/2020
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, board certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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