If you are looking for better ways to manage your Type 2 Diabetes or are simply trying to get ahead of it by preventing it, read on because we may have some tips for you!
Just under half a billion people are currently living with diabetes worldwide. That number is projected to increase by 25% in 2030 and 51% in 2045. Diabetes is a worldwide health problem characterized by the body’s inability to break down sugar due to the inefficiency of the hormone insulin, which can lead to several complications, including the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people with this condition. Diabetes can affect people of all ages and can be associated with muscle weakness, decreased endurance, balance problems, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and musculoskeletal impairments. “Up to 80% of patients referred for outpatient physical therapy have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes, providing an opportunity for us as physical therapists to intervene.” – JOSPT
Diabetes can affect a person’s ability to move easily due to issues associated with joint mobility limitation and tissue changes, resulting in thicker and stiffer collagen tissues in tendons, skin, and discs, increasing a person’s risk for injury.
One of the best ways physical therapists help patients combat all these underlying issues is, you guessed right, Exercise!
Researchers in the United Kingdom found that exercise reduces your risk of developing the disease by almost 25 percent. So how much exercise is enough? The quantity of exercise is important because the positive effects on blood sugar drop 72 hours after you’ve finished your activity. This means that instead of trying to get your exercise in once a week — such as on the weekend — you should spread out your activities throughout the week. The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. However, those with peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage commonly caused by diabetes, shouldn’t perform any weight-bearing activities.
The best exercise program for those with type 2 diabetes should include a combination of aerobic, resistance, and endurance training. We can also provide patients with a fall prevention program designed to increase independence with functional activities, functional mobility, and safety awareness while decreasing fall risk.
Here are some of the exercises recommended during physical therapy for Type 2 Diabetes:
- Walking – The only thing necessary to complete this activity is a good pair of shoes and a trail, path, or sidewalk. Taking a brisk walk 3 to 5 times a week will put you on your way to meeting the recommended exercise recommendation goals.
- Stationary Bicycling – This is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen muscles, and limit joint pain.
- Swimming – This is another activity that puts very little strain on the body’s joints but gives you a whole-body workout at the same time.
- Aerobic dance – Zumba is an example of aerobic dance that encourages you to move around freely! Not only will this exercise your body, but it will give you a chance to connect with others that are looking to improve their health in similar ways to you.
- Resistance band exercises – Using resistance bands will allow you to train in a very different way than usual. Although, to use them properly, consulting with a physical therapist is a good idea. Your therapist can help you learn the safest ways to use the bands. They can also assist you with appropriate exercises for your health and fitness level.
- Yoga – Yoga can improve flexibility & joint health. It can provide a mental boost as well.
Bonus Tips for Safe Exercise
Exercise should be a safe, enjoyable, and positive experience. Here are some exercise tips for individuals with diabetes.
- Check Your Blood Sugar – It’s important to check your blood sugar every 30 minutes during exercise, and four hours afterward to make sure that you’re maintaining proper blood sugar levels.
- Check Your Feet/Shoes – People with this condition are at risk for diabetic neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage that can mostly occur in the legs and feet. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to serious complications, including ulcers, infection, and bone & joint pain. Make sure to wear clean socks and shoes that fit you well. Look inside your shoes before wearing them to make sure there is nothing in them that might hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable. Always examine your feet before and after activity for blisters, redness, or other signs of irritation.
- Hydration and Snacks – Staying hydrated is essential to avoid any injury. It is also important to have some fast-acting sugary food available in the event of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. This is critical for individuals who are on insulin and have type 1 diabetes.
- Warm-Up/Cool Down – We encourage you to warm up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise and cool down for 5 minutes in the end. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, you should rest for a few minutes and see how you feel. Use the “talk test” to make sure you are not pushing yourself too hard. If you become short of breath and you can’t talk, then slow down. As your fitness level improves over time, you’ll be able to exercise at a higher intensity and chat with others while having fun exercising.
Physical therapy for Type 2 diabetes can help patients address weakness, balance problems, lack of activity, and more. As mentioned before, skipping regular physical activity for more than two days in a row can lead to glucose intolerance and insulin sensitivity, so it is important that you maintain your physical therapy appointments and follow our home exercise instructions. We can help you manage your diabetes together and help you live a happy healthy life.