Expert Health Articles

Fight Diabetes with Exercise

Dr. Thomas F. VailDr. Thomas F. Vail, DPM        

A recent study conducted by the University College of London showed that people who exercise lower their risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.  Now it’s not really news that doctors have been recommending regular exercise and weight control for years as a means of minimizing the risk of diabetes.  What is the news though is that the more a person exercises, the more they lower their risk. 

When you have Type 2 diabetes, I recommend exercise as an important part of your treatment plan.  I suggest to all my patients, but especially to diabetics, to start a regular exercise routine.  If a patient hasn’t exercised in years building-up slowly is important.  Go for a brisk walk and follow this with seated foot exercises such as writing the alphabet with each foot.  Not literally of course, but in the air.  I like the ‘windshield wiper’ motion as another good foot exercise.  Then add arm motions to increase your intensity level.  Remember to talk to your doctor or podiatrist before you begin any exercise program though. 

Your goal should be to increase your activity slowly and get the most benefit from your exercise.  It is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise. The MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.  As you exercise, periodically:

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.

  • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.

  • Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. Remember your goal is to stay between 50 percent to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is your target heart rate. 

If you stay fit and exercise regularly you will be better able to keep your glucose levels in the proper range and ultimately control your diabetes for the rest of your life.  Controlling your glucose levels will also help prevent long term complications such as neuropathy or nerve pain, especially in your feet, and kidney disease.

Researchers in New Zealand found that when you exercise is just as important-if not more important-than how much.  Just 10 minutes of walking immediately following a meal did more to lower blood sugar levels than 30 minutes of exercise other times of the day.

What this tells us is that exercise has great potential to slow down the progression of diabetes related illnesses and maybe even reverse the onset of diabetes around the world.  And remember your pet can get diabetes too!  In fact diabetes amongst dogs and cats is on the rise.  So include your pet and go for a walk.  With regular exercise both you and your pet can live a healthier happier life.