Just like a healthy diet, exercise can help people to manage diabetes. Medical professionals tend to agree on this fact, but coming up with a fitness plan can be confusing; some experts encourage regular workouts while others caution against intense movement.
At No Cost Shoes, we get a lot of questions from diabetics hoping to get on their feet in a healthy, sustainable way. Here the six most critical tips to consider as you strive for a more active lifestyle.
Note: This article is a collection of general, helpful tips and should not replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise plan.
1. Check your heart health first.
People who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes often have other co-existing health challenges, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or heart conditions. While exercise may help control diabetes, starting a rigorous fitness program without considering these other conditions would be a mistake.
For example, while exercise is generally a good move for heart health, working out too vigorously at first can cause issues. It is particularly important to chat with a doctor if you have blocked arteries or high blood pressure, as these conditions can be impacted by physical activity.
2. Always keep a 15 g carb snack with you – and don’t forget the water!
As a diabetic, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated and keep a low blood glucose treatment handy at all times. That advice is even more critical when you’re exercising. A 15g carb snack, like a granola bar, can serve as a necessary source of glucose in a pinch. This tip is particularly critical when you’re working out where food may not be readily available – for example, when you go on a wilderness hike.
3. Record your progress.
The more information you can provide to your doctor, the better. A record of what you’re doing will help a medical professional understand the progress you’re making and how your fitness plan is affecting your overall health. If writing everything down seems tedious, consider investing in a fitness tracker. These high-tech watches can keep an eye on steps, heart rate, movement goals and more – all information your doctor might find useful at your next check-up.
4. See the right professional.
While your family doctor might be great at diagnosing issues and prescribing medication, he or she may not be particularly experienced with diabetic fitness (after all, no one is an expert in everything!). Consider working with an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer with diabetic knowledge to get started in the right direction. An expert can show you which exercises to focus on, how hard to work, and even how to make fitness fun! If you’re new to exercise, having someone by your side to help out can make a big difference.
5. Test your blood sugar regularly.
Hemoglobin A1C and blood glucose testing are important rituals for any diabetic. For those taking on an exercise plan, testing has an added perk – motivation! Exercise often keeps blood sugar under control, and good test results can bring a sense of encouragement for those taking their first steps into a healthier lifestyle.
6. Take care of your feet and wear the right shoes when exercising.
Diabetes is linked to foot problems for two reasons. First of all, diabetes can cause nerve damage that impacts a foot’s sensitivity to pain – imagine breaking a toe while working out and not even feeling it! Add to this poor circulation issues, and suddenly feet are at major risk for active diabetics.
When working out, take these steps to protect your feet:
- Pick an exercise plan that is lower risk for your feet. Instead of running on rough terrain, for example, try using an exercise bike or a paved sidewalk.
- Nerve damage could make it difficult to detect injuries, so be sure to inspect your feet during and after an exercise session. If you fall on, twist, or hit your foot, do not use pain as an indicator of damage. Instead, stay off of the foot for a few hours and have it inspected by a medical professional.
- Get diabetic shoes that are optimized for activity. Medicare and major insurance companies cover one pair and two inserts per year, so it’s best to replace your shoes every 12 months (it’s free, so why not?). If you’re a resident of the United States and want to see if you’re covered for diabetic shoes, click here.
Staying healthy with diabetes
Staying healthy with diabetes is not a matter of just taking a pill and moving on – lifestyle changes and preventative measures are often a critical part of a treatment plan. Done correctly, exercise can and should be a part of this journey!
Keeping healthy with diabetes doesn’t have to be expensive – while gyms and trainers are amazing support, even a daily walk outside in the right pair of shoes can help support a healthy, happy life.