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Exercising with Complications: Overview of Precautions for Safety

To often our patients tell us they can’t increase their physical activity because of the complications of their disease. Dr. Sheri Colberg, author of The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, has the right things to do in this weeks feature Exercising with Complications: Overview of Precautions for Safety

Exercising with Complications: Overview of Precautions for Safety

By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM

Is your health your main excuse for not being more physically active? Whether your biggest health complaint is high blood pressure, loss of feeling in your feet, or arthritic knees, it’s time to change your way of thinking. There is mounting evidence that older individuals with chronic health problems respond just as well to exercise training as their younger counterparts; yet, many older people still choose not to be physically active. While it’s true that 85 percent of people over the age of 65 have a health problem that they may view as a deterrent to exercise, diabetes should definitely not be among them, and neither should almost all of the others.

Although most everyone can exercise safely and effectively, diabetes does bring additional risks. However, you can still exercise to your potential–as long as you respect your limitations. To stay safe and get the most out of your activities, follow the exercise guidelines published by the American Diabetes Association and others.

List of Precautions for Exercising with Diabetes and/or Its Complications

•           Have a blood glucose meter accessible to check your blood glucose level before, possibly during, and/or after exercise, or if you have any symptoms of low sugars
•           Immediately treat any low blood glucose during or following exercise with easily absorbed carbohydrates like glucose tablets or regular soft drinks, which you should keep handy
•           Inform your exercise partner(s) about your diabetes, and show them how to administer glucose or another carbohydrate to you should you need assistance in treating a low
•           Stay properly hydrated with frequent intake of small amounts of cool water
•           Consult with your physician prior to exercising with any of the following conditions:
             o          Proliferative retinopathy or current retinal hemorrhage
             o          Neuropathy (nerve damage), either peripheral or autonomic
             o          Foot injuries (including ulcers)
             o          High blood pressure
             o          Serious illness or infection
•           Seek immediate medical attention for chest pain or any pain that radiates down your arm, jaw, or neck
•           If you have hypertension, avoid activities that cause large increases in your blood pressure, such as heavy resistance work, head-down exercises, and anything that forces you to hold your breath
•           Wear proper footwear, and check your feet daily for signs of trauma such as blisters, redness, or other irritation
•           Immediately stop exercising if you experience bleeding into your eyes caused by active proliferative retinopathy
•           Wear a diabetes medic alert bracelet or necklace with your physician’s name and contact information on it

                                                                                                                                               

In two weeks, I will share more tips for exercising with specific health complications, as well as some ideas from my latest book, The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight (2006).  Information about all of my books, my many articles, my research, and more is available on my web site: www.SheriColberg.com