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Exercise for people with diabetes is crucial for good glycemic control. Type Is can reduce their insulin doses and type 2s can reduce the risk of numerous complications. But exercise for people with diabetes also requires special attention because it has special risks. The following list of recommendations should help you avoid any unnecessary risk when it comes to all forms of exercise - from dancing to jogging.
Paula Harper a diabetes exercise specialist from the International Diabetic Athletes Association (IDAA), adds: "Individuals with diabetes need to adjust their insulin therapy on the basis of their personal experiences in order to avoid exercise-induced hypoglycemia. Testing remains the person's primary yardstick for managing how to effectively and safely participate in sports and games."
It is also important to test frequently, with a meter, to avoid inaccurate blood sugar estimates, says Harper. "Because it was such a hassle to stop and explain to others that I needed to test, I would estimate. I thought I knew what my blood sugar reading was, but I was wrong."
She also advises to check your body symptoms for hypoglycemia every 15 minutes. "It is so easy to get caught up in the beauty of immediate surroundings. But it is critical that you regularly do a reality check on potential low blood sugar signs and symptoms."
Neil Scheffler, DPM, from the Baltimore Podiatry Group in Baltimore, Maryland, says that exercise is the best way to avoid many of the deadliest complications associated with diabetes - heart disease, stroke and other problems such as leg amputations caused by clogged arteries. He adds that exercise has direct links to reducing lipid profiles (HDL/LDL/total Cholesterol).
Weight reduction from exercise may also benefit people with diabetes because reducing weight on the feet and legs decreases the pain of various lower extremity problems. A visit to a podiatrist to evaluate risks to feet and to get suggestions for shoes, socks and inserts for protection and shock-absorbency, is also recommended.
He warns that people with diabetes that have complications may need to custom-tailor their exercise program. "People with eye or nerve damage may need to do low-impact exercises," he says.
The benefits are more than diabetes-specific, he adds. "You may have an improved self-image and quality of life as well."
The above guidelines (1-11) are from the IDAA newsletter, The Challenge. The IDAA is a non-profit organization dedicated to physical fitness for individuals with diabetes. The IDAA will be holding its 1997 North American meeting, "Diabetes and Exercise: Practical Approaches for the Long Run," in Scotts Valley, Calif., on the weekend of May 9-11, 1997. For more information, call (800) 898-4322.