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July 2010 | 1 Comments | Print

Even with diabetes, you can stay healthy with exercise

With Dominic Rizzo, D.P.M., program director for The Christ Hospital Foot and Ankle Clinic

For many, starting an exercise program is often daunting because they may be out of shape, overweight or have other health conditions that lead to inactivity. Although every journey begins with the first step, walking might not be the best way to begin an exercise program if you are one of the nearly 24 million Americans living with diabetes.

“People with diabetes often experience diminished sensation in their lower limbs and should inspect their feet closely for blisters and other potential damage before and after exercising. It is estimated that every year five percent of diabetics develop foot wounds which, in extreme cases, lead to amputation," says Dr. Dominic Rizzo, D.P.M., program director for The Christ Hospital Foot and Ankle Clinic, who specializes in podiatric wound care and also helps treat chronic wounds that have difficulty healing due to complications from diabetes.

For people with diabetes, physical activity improves insulin sensitivity and helps bring elevated blood glucose levels into the normal range. In addition, they can help manage their disease through increased circulation, weight loss and other benefits of exercise.

Tips for proper exercise
  • Before starting an exercise program, talk with your healthcare professional regarding the presence of vascular complications that could worsen with exercise and orthopedic or musculoskeletal conditions that may exempt certain exercises.
  • Check your blood glucose before and after exercise to learn how your body responds. Those at risk for low blood glucose should have a source of carbohydrates nearby while exercising.
  • Since dehydration is often an issue with diabetes, it is important to drink water early and frequently when exercising. 
  • For diabetics with reduced sensation, prolonged walking, jogging, using a treadmill and step exercises are not recommended. Instead, try swimming, bicycling, rowing, chair and arm exercises and other non-weight bearing activities.
  • Proper footwear is essential. The use of silica gel or air midsoles as well as polyester or cotton/polyester socks will help prevent blisters and keep feet dry.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine has demonstrated that resistance training can improve insulin sensitivity to about the same extent as aerobic exercise. The American Diabetes Association recommends that exercising with weights is acceptable for younger individuals but not recommended for older people with long-standing diabetes.
  • There are many ways to increase physical activity besides formal exercise such as gardening, housecleaning and even marching in place or walking around the house during TV commercial breaks.

For more information on diabetes services, foot and ankle care or wound treatment options available through The Christ Hospital, please call 877-904-4YOU or visit

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Many, many quality points there.

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