Have Diabetes-Related Complications? Exercises to Avoid

Chances are, you've heard about the benefits of exercise so often, you could list them in your sleep: it can lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol, help you lose weight, reduce body fat, reduce your stress level, and give you more energy. But if you're dealing with any diabetes-related complications, the rules are a little different.

"The benefits of exercise are enormous," says Kellie Rodriguez, RN, CDE, CPT, director of patient education at the Diabetes Research Institute. "But you need to be super-careful about doing exercise that is high impact, or that involves lifting weights and straining, when you have certain complications from diabetes."

Here are a few of the complications that should be a yellow light for you. Depending upon your doctor's recommendation, you'll be able to switch to a different form of fitness. There is an exercise program out there for nearly everyone; it's just a matter of finding one that's right for you.

Peripheral neuropathy. When this complication occurs, an individual may not have good sensation in the feet, Rodriguez explains. And if you have no sensation, you could injure yourself while running, jogging, or skiing-or even just walking-and not even realize it. "This can be incredibly dangerous," Rodriguez says. "If you have peripheral neuropathy, after exercise you need to look at the bottoms of your feet for scratches, cuts, and blisters." Also be sure to wear cotton socks and well-fitting, comfortable shoes for exercise. One good activity for those who aren't supposed to be jogging, Rodriguez suggests, is swimming.

Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy). If you develop this condition, you'll want to stay away from weight lifting. "It can raise the blood pressure, which can lead to bleeding in the back of the eye," Rodriguez says. Be sure to check with your eye specialist to find out what types of exercise are safe for you to do.  

 ● Autonomic neuropathy. This condition affects the nerves that control such organs as the bladder, genitals, and intestinal tract. When an individual has autonomic neuropathy, he may no longer feel the symptoms of low blood sugar or he may even have a silent heart attack, Rodriguez explains. Be sure to get medical clearance before doing exercise, and plan a fitness program carefully.

Most individuals will be able to safely do a variety of exercises, says Hope Warshaw, RD, CDE, MMSc, co-author of the "Real-Life Guide to Diabetes."  "Your doctor may want you to see an exercise physiologist or physical therapist to help you figure out what exercise is right for you," she says. "For people with type 2 diabetes, exercise has myriad benefits.  It's all about finding the right program."

When you do choose an exercise program, be safe by following some simple rules. Wear your medical identification bracelet or necklace, carry your ID in your pocket, and always travel with food or glucose tablets to treat low blood sugar. Check your blood sugar regularly if you exercise for over an hour: you may need a snack before you finish.



"What I need to know about physical activity and diabetes." National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,  National Institutes of Health.

Colberg, Sheri R., Sigal, Ronald J., Fernall, Bo, Regensteiner, Judith G., Blissmer, Bryan J., Rubin, Richard R., Chasan-Taber, Lisa, Albright, Ann L., Braun, Barry. "Exercise and Type 2 diabetes." Diabetes Care. Volume 33, Number 12, December 2010.