If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you know the importance of daily exercise to maintain your weight and control blood glucose levels. Walking is one of the easiest and most effective diabetes exercise. You can do it anywhere and it won't take a bite out of your purse. It also doesn't put too much stress on your joints or feet compared to running, or a high impact sport like basketball or tennis.

The benefits of walking for diabetes are proven. In a study published in the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 26 patients with type 2 diabetes participated in a walking program for four months. They had to walk for a minimum of 45 to 60 minutes three times weekly. A control group of 26 patients didn't have to follow the exercise program. Patients with type 2 diabetes in the walking program had improved systolic and diastolic blood pressure, BMI, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Although there were no differences in patients' blood glucose levels or weight in this study, other research on diabetes exercise shows that using a pedometer and increasing walking activity to 10,000 steps a day can improve type 2 diabetes. It burns more fat, which improves blood glucose levels and causes weight loss.

Other studies show that patients who skip diabetes exercise such as walking end up paying higher health care costs--between $500 to $1200 more. They also take more insulin and have higher cholesterol and triglycerides levels and blood pressure.

While walking is an easy diabetes exercise, there is one possible drawback - pain. Studies show that pain can influence whether patients stick to their walking program or not.

How to Start Walking for Diabetes Exercise

• Get a checkup. Before you start any exercise program, see your doctor. He can perform tests - such as blood pressure and cardiovascular tests, and sensitivity tests (for nerve damage) - to make sure it's safe for you to go walking.

• Buy a good pair of shoes. Foot care is more important when you have diabetes. Comfortable shoes and padded insoles can take pressure off your feet and protect them from injury.

• Wear a medical I.D. jewelry. A diabetes bracelet, necklace or shoe tag alerts others about your condition if you're injured or ill and can't speak.

• Pace yourself. If you haven't been physically active for a while, start diabetes exercise slowly. Aim for 15 minutes of walking at a moderate pace and work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes and a faster pace gradually.

• Avoid low blood glucose. Exercise burns glucose, increasing your risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Don't forget to take your insulin or diabetes pill, don't skip meals, and take a snack or carbohydrate beverage with you. Also, monitor how your blood glucose levels respond to walking for a long period of time or to brisk walking and adjust your regimen accordingly. Speak to your doctor about adjusting your meds when you exercise.

• Carry a drink. When you have diabetes you're more prone to dehydration. Take a water bottle along and drink lots of water before, during and after walking.

• Wear a pedometer. To get the most out of walking as a diabetes exercise, use a pedometer so you can better results for your efforts.

• Control pain. Don't let pain interfere with your diabetes exercise. Ask your doctor about the best ways to control it. Some remedies include: topical treatments such as lidocaine patches or Neuragen cream; antidepressants (even if you're not suffering from diabetes-related depression); or opioids such as oxycodone.

• Monitor your progress. Keep a diary to track changes in your blood glucose levels, use of diabetes medications such as insulin or glucose pills, or blood test results. You may just find that walking is effective diabetes exercise that improves your condition and long-term health.

Study References

Journal: Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Vol. 71, Issue 1, pp. 21-27

Date: January 2006

Study Name: Walking for exercise-does three times per week influence risk factors in type 2 diabetes?

Website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16005099

Authors: T. Fritz, P. Wändell, H. Åberg, P. Engfeldt