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How to Exercise When You Have Diabetic Neuropathy

Posted by Billy Kanter, CPED on Jan 25, 2016 6:00:00 AM
Billy Kanter, CPED
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A common New Year’s Resolution is to improve exercise habits. For someone with diabetic neuropathy, this may not be so easy. You may be wondering, “what exactly is diabetic neuropathy?” Great question…


Your nervous system controls, among other things, your blood pressure, temperature, breathing, pulse rate and digestive system, as well as your ability to move, listen and talk. The system consists of thousands of fibers that connect your brain and spinal cord to every part of your body. Long-term diabetes and the oft associated high blood sugar issues can damage these nerve fibers, resulting in what we refer to as diabetic neuropathy. This type of nerve damage is usually permanent.

However, you can manage and at times prevent diabetic neuropathy by controlling your blood glucose levels through diet, and exercise.

So, how should you exercise when you have diabetic neuropathy? Here are some tips:

Stick to Low-Impact Exercises:swimming_with_diabetes.jpg

  • To protect your feet, you should restrict yourself to exercises that have a minimal impact on your feet.
  • These kinds of exercise include swimming (which does not put any weight on your feet), water aerobics, yoga, tai chi, walking, strength training, weights, regular aerobics, and so on.
  • You need to avoid exercises such as jogging (especially on hard road surfaces) which will jar your feet continuously.

Build Up Slowly:

  • The trick is to start off with just five minutes or so every day and then build up from there, adding a little more each day, until you are doing 30 minutes a day, every day.
  • You should begin by concentrating on moves that improve your balance if your nerve damage is quite advanced and you are worried about falling.
  • Once your fitness has improved, you can try out new exercises such as golf, badminton, lawn tennis, bowling, kayaking or even ballroom dancing. There are dozens of sports that have a low-impact on your feet.

Exercises for Balance:

  • Here are some exercises to improve you balance
  • A simple movement to improve your sense of balance is to rise out of a chair three to five times in a row. At first you can use your arms and hands to steady yourself, but eventually you should work towards being able to get up out of a chair using just your legs.
  • balance_exercise_diabetes.jpgWalking the line. Walk heel to toe as if following a straight line on the floor, lining one foot directly in front of the other as you move forward. You can use your arms for balance. To see how good you really are, try doing it backwards.
  • Stand on one leg. With your hands on a suitable support such as a countertop, back of a chair, or railing raise one foot off of the ground so that you are standing on one leg. Try to hold your pose for 30 second increments, alternating legs. Once you are comfortable doing with that, try doing it without a balance support.

It’s always important to make sure you’ve taken the right precautions before you try any of this; however, every little bit helps. The better you feel, the better you will be in all aspects of life.

Billy Kanter CPED

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Topics: Patient, Lifestyle

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