For people with type 2 diabetes, regular, moderate physical activity can improve and maintain health by fostering a healthy body weight and better blood sugar control. If you already have neuropathy, choose gentle activities that don’t worsen pain in hands and feet, such as swimming, water aerobics, or biking. If you are new to exercising, consult your health care provider for guidance on getting started.
While many people with type 1 diabetes can benefit from regular, moderate exercise, physical activity can lead to low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). If you have type 1 diabetes, never begin an intensive exercise program without consulting a healthcare professional first.
Always wear activity-appropriate, well-fitting foot wear, and comfortable, moisture-wicking socks. Place special focus on keeping your feet clean and dry. Be sure to wash and dry between your toes carefully. Monitor the condition of your feet regularly, and notify your health care provider about calluses, blisters or red, swollen, and inflamed areas that do not heal. Ask a spouse, partner, or home health care provider to help you with areas you can’t see, such as the bottom of your feet.
Some physical activities are not safe for people with neuropathy. These activities may cause injury or tissue damage that people with existing neuropathy may not feel or notice. This can lead to more serious problems. Consult with a qualified health care provider, such as a diabetes clinical exercise expert for guidance.7
Smokers are also more likely to develop diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes who smoke are at higher risk for kidney damage, heart disease, and other diabetes-linked problems. Further, quitting smoking is particularly important because smoking constricts the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the peripheral nerves; this can worsen neuropathy symptoms.8Therefore, it is important not to smoke.