What kind of exercise is safe -- and fun -- if you have nerve damage from diabetes, called diabetic neuropathy? And how can you stay motivated after that first flush of inspiration fades?
"It depends on where you're starting," says Dace L. Trence, MD, an endocrinologist and director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. "For the person who has been doing nothing, you would certainly want to start doing something that's comfortable and enjoyable and can be maintained."
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was a major clinical trial, or research study, aimed at discovering whether either diet and exercise or the oral diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT).
The answer is yes. In fact, the DPP found that over the three years of the study, diet and exercise sharply reduced the chances that a person with IGT would develop diabetes. Metformin also reduced risk, although...
If you have diabetic nerve pain in your feet, legs, arms, or hands, consider this: research published in The Journal of Diabetes Complications in 2006 showed significant benefits of exercise in controlling peripheral neuropathy. The study showed that for people who took a brisk, one-hour walk on a treadmill four times a week, exercise slowed how quickly their nerve damage worsened. There's no quick fix here, though; the study lasted four years.
Let's face it: when it comes to managing a lifelong condition like diabetes, it makes sense to think long-term. It's all about lifestyle changes to protect yourself from diabetic nerve damage. Becoming more active can help you control blood sugar levels, feel good, and lighten the load on painful feet and legs, especially if you're overweight. These tips can help you start and stick with an exercise plan for more than the first few days.
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