Diabetes Management

The Role of Exercise in Preventing and Managing Diabetes

Physical Therapy and Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into the energy necessary for daily life. While the cause of diabetes is unknown, factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play important roles. Diabetes can result in conditions such as: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease (neuropathy), amputations, and problems with the skin, including ulcers and infections. There are 23.6 million children and adults living with diabetes in the United States. Of these an estimated 17.9 million have been diagnosed, while 5.7 million are unaware that they have the disease.

How a Physical Therapist Can Help

Managing your diabetes can lower your risk of resulting health issues. Management includes controlling your blood sugar (glucose), lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising. Physical therapists are experts in restoring and improving human motion, and can play an integral role in the management of diabetes by establishing and, as needed, supervising exercise programs and providing treatment of complications.

Importance of Exercise

Exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your need for medications, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and help manage glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days per week. Both aerobic and strength workouts are helpful. Your physical therapist can create an individual exercise program to help you achieve better health safely. You should see a physical therapist to help you with physical activity if you have:

  • Pain in your joints or muscles
  • Numbness or tingling in your feet
  • Calluses or sores on your feet
  • Pain or limping with walking
  • Used an assistive device such as a cane or crutches
  • Desire to develop an exercise program