Diabetic comorbidities

Exercise during diabetes and movement despite neuropathy – it feels good!

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Exercise and fitness, but also movement in general – such as going for a walk outdoors – increase quality of life. Anyone who exercises and gets sweaty feels satisfied in the evening that he or she has done something good for the body – and also something good for the mind. But what does exercise mean for diabetics? And what about people who live with secondary complications of diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy? Can they also exercise and if so, what must they be aware of?

Diabetics can exercise – and they should do so

The first question is easy to answer: Diabetics should of course get some exercise and especially those suffering from diabetic neuropathy. Exercise improves glucose metabolism and can help a person stand more securely on their feet. It does not have to involve weightlifting or marathons – even more movement in day-to-day life can make a huge difference! Exercise is particularly pleasant when it is done in a group setting. Contact with the group and interactions with other people also play a role in significantly increasing one’s quality of life.

Exercise improves glucose metabolism and can help a person stand more securely on his or her feet.

Study: diabetics with neuropathy get far too little exercise

Diabetic neuropathy is a common secondary complication of diabetes in which the nerve cells are damaged as a result of various processes. Nerves in the legs responsible for the sense of touch and the locomotor system are affected particularly frequently. The consequences: The nerves no longer work properly and transmit only a little or even incorrect information. This can be manifested by numb extremities but also through abnormal sensations ranging from a feeling of pins and needles or tingling to pain without any direct trigger.

As a result, many people with diabetic neuropathy get far too little exercise – and even less the more pronounced their neuropathy is. Sufferers get into a vicious circle from a self-imposed lack of exercise and immobility due to neuropathic pain. This was proven by a study of the Institute for Sports Medicine of the University of Münster: The following was determined from 73 test persons with the aid of a pedometer: Even in the early stage of neuropathy, the study participants moved very little overall. However, in cases of advanced neuropathy, their activity decreased to below the figures of persons who have a “predominantly sedentary lifestyle.” This lifestyle can be roughly described as: From the office chair to the car and from there to the couch.

Why exercise is recommended in diabetes

Many people suffering from neuropathy limit their mobility, due to the altered physical perception and numbness in the soles of the feet and the legs. They no longer have the courage to walk far distances or stand for longer periods of time. Exercise, in the strict sense of the word, is not even considered. Serious falls are considered to be a risk of the disease in advanced neuropathy. But just the fear of a fall and the increasing insecurity in one’s own body enormously limit quality of life, even in early stages of the disease. Here is where diabetics with the onset of neuropathy can and should actively take countermeasures.

Regular physical activity improves body awareness and coordination of the changing body. As a result, the relevant muscles are preserved longer and the risk of falls during everyday activities is reduced. Pain and other symptoms of neuropathy, such as tingling, burning, or numbness, also typically decrease during exercise. The additional exercise strengthens the circulatory system, promotes circulation and thus also metabolism and blood glucose control. However, do not start training on your own, but rather talk to your doctor so that your insulin adjustment can be adapted, if necessary.

Suitable types of exercise for diabetics and in cases of diabetic neuropathy

Diabetics must take care when selecting the right type of exercise. Not every type of exercise is equally good for diabetics.

Diabetics and especially neuropathy patients should be sure to take part in types of exercise which are gentle to the feet. These include, for example, swimming or cycling, and, depending on your preference, training with weights or equipment may also be right for you. Fitness walking or simple strolls are also suitable. By and large, all types of exercise which train strength and stamina and also focus on mobility are suitable for diabetics. What is important is that you regularly perform your exercise. Don’t break your good resolutions after just a few weeks! This means: Perform several short sessions during the week instead of one intensive session during the weekend in order to gently get your metabolism used to the exertion. To increase motivation and endurance, physical activity on a team or in a group is of course the best. In this way, it is not just your own body that is nurtured but social contacts are nurtured as well. If you feel unsteady on your feet, the group gives you additional security and support.

How you can structure your day to be more active: diabetes in motion

With a few simple measures, even diabetics without any athletic ambitions can bring more movement into their day-to-day lives. If you regularly participate in an athletic activity, you should of course also heed this advice in order to structure your entire lifestyle in a more active way.

Exercise during polyneuropathy: exercises for your feet

For people who are less of a sports enthusiast, regular foot gymnastics, are recommended. They can be performed easily on the side and while seated, for example, while you are watching television or sitting at the dining table. Place your feet alternately on your toes and on your heels. Switch between these two positions for a few minutes in order to use your calf and foot muscles. You can also lift your leg and extend your foot horizontally. Stretch your toes and heels forward alternately again, like a ballerina, or draw circles in the air with your feet.

Exercise gives diabetics more autonomy in their daily lives

The absolute minimum level of exercise in your day-to-day life should be conducting errands on foot whenever possible. After a short period of time, you will notice how a little bit of extra exercise lets you not only be more active but also gives you back a lot of autonomy in your everyday life. In addition, be sure that you have good footwear and stockings without irritating seams. Especially if you participate in athletic activity, you should additionally perform foot care and a foot check every day. Only in this way can any blisters or injuries which may often not be perceived as painful as a result of neuropathy be discovered and treated quickly.

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