Northwestern Medicine

Diabetes Patients Should Take Extra Care When Exercising, Hospital Experts Say

Lake Forest Hospital May 21, 2010

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Wound Center offers tips on being active while managing diabetes.

LAKE FOREST, IL – Starting an exercise program can be a daunting task for the nearly 24 million Americans with diabetes. Wound care doctors encourage their patients to rise to this challenge, but say that extra care should be taken.

“Diabetes patients are more prone to foot wounds than the general population,” said Dr. William Pearce, Medical Director of the Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Wound Center. “Patients should pay close attention to their feet before and after exercise and then contact their doctors if they notice any changes. As long as patients are vigilant to these changes, exercise offers ample benefits for their overall health.”

Activity can help improve insulin sensitivity and bring elevated blood glucose levels into the normal range. Increased circulation, weight loss and exercise’s other benefits can help patients manage their disease.

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Wound Center, a National Healing Corporation Wound Healing Center, offers these exercise tips:

  • Before starting an exercise program, talk with your health care professional about 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 says that exercising with weights is acceptable for younger individuals but not recommended for older people with long-standing diabetes.
  • In addition to formal exercise, there are many ways to increase physical activity, including gardening, housecleaning and even marching in place or walking around the house during T.V. commercial breaks.

For more information on managing diabetes or problems with a non-healing wound, contact the Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital Wound Center at 847.535.7600 or on the web.

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