Three diabetes-related conditions to be aware of when exercising

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

You may have heard the saying ‘something is better than nothing’ when it comes to exercise. In many ways this is true as movement does benefit your health. However, if you are  living with diabetes there could be other health concerns you may need to consider. Let’s explore some of the common health conditions associated with diabetes and assess their impact on exercising.

  1. Hyperglycaemia

A quick guide to knowing when exercise will help or hinder BGLs in the short term.

Type 1 diabetes:

  • Safe to exercise: between 6-15mmol/L
  • Exercise with caution: >15mmol/L, no ketones present and feeling well
  • Delay exercise: >15mmol/L with ketones present

Type 2 diabetes:

  • Safe to exercise: between 6-15mmol/L
  • Exercise with caution: >15mmol/L and feeling well
  • Delay exercise: >15mmol/L and feeling unwell

If, before you start to exercise, your BGL is on the higher side of the recommended range, opt for low intensity aerobic exercise. This will help in bringing your blood glucose level down to within a safer range.

  1. Neuropathy

Have you been told you have neuropathy or have you experienced a loss of sensation and/or altered feeling in your feet? If so, have a look below at how exercise can help and which exercises to avoid. 

How exercise can help:

  • Improve blood glucose levels – this is important to keep your blood vessels healthy and avoid damage to the walls of your vessels which can contribute to a loss of sensation in your feet.
  • Improves blood circulation – always a great thing for your blood vessels and organs.

What exercise should you avoid and what precautions should you take to keep your feet healthy?

  • Avoid high impact exercises such as jumping and running
  • Ensure your exercise area is free from tripping or fall hazards
  • Check your feet by touching and observing before and after exercise to ensure you do not have do not have any injuries, wounds or blisters
  • Exercise in enclosed and comfortable shoes. If you aren’t sure whether your shoes fit appropriately, discuss this with your podiatrist next time you have a check-up. Take a look at our video for advice on taking good care of your feet to avoid injury:
  1. High blood pressure or hypertension

Exercise can help improve your heart health in so many ways, making it more efficient at its role, adapting and coping better when under physical exertion as well as making your heart stronger (it is a muscle after all). There is even evidence to demonstrate that moderate and in some cases high intensity exercise can be greatly beneficial to many conditions relating to heart health. Exercise that increases your heart rate, makes you puff and feels a little harder isn’t just for the ‘fit’ people out there!

 What do you need to know and what precautions should you take before starting a different type of exercise?

  • Some medications can affect how your heart and blood pressure responds to exercise. Check with your GP if the medication you are taking could be affected by exercise. Learn how to monitor the intensity that you are working at through other means, such as using the RPE scale of 1-10 (rate of perceived exertion).
  • Just like there is a safe blood glucose range to follow when engaging in exercise, this is also the case for blood pressure. If you have been told you have high blood pressure that is not currently well looked after, it is best to get it within a safe range before commencing exercise. Blood pressure readings above certain ranges would be considered ‘unsafe’ and exercise may be dangerous in these circumstances.

An accredited exercise physiologist is the best equipped health professional to discuss precautions with you and help prescribe an exercise plan that is safe for you.

If you have any questions about the above information, please call our helpline on 1800 637 700. You can chat with one of our accredited exercise physiologists about how to get started on your exercise journey.


By Bianca Penning, Accredited Exercise Physiologist

*The above information is a guide only, and should not be taken as an individual recommendation. Obtain clearance from your GP before starting a new exercise. Accredited exercise physiologists (AEPs) specialise in creating individualised programs for people living with a range of health conditions. Working closely with an AEP will ensure you are exercising safely and gaining the greatest benefits for your individual circumstances.

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