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Keeping Active With Diabetes and Arthritis

by Kristina Ernst, RN, CDE, and Marian A. Minor, PT, PhD

  • Make sure your plan is something you really believe you can do. Use the 0–10 confidence scale to check how sure you are that you can carry out your plan. On a confidence scale of 0–10, if you are not at least an 8, you are unlikely to follow through. Rework your plan to make it less difficult. For example, you may feel very little confidence in the likelihood that you’ll go to the gym for an hour before work every day. You may feel more confident that you’ll be able to walk for 30 minutes every day during lunch or after work. But if walking for 30 minutes a day still ranks below an 8 on your confidence scale, you need to come up with another plan. Perhaps walking for 30 minutes three times a week is a better place to start.
  • Whatever you start with, try it for a couple of weeks and see how you do. You may decide to stick with your plan for a few more weeks, to add more time or other activities to it, or to scale back to something a little easier. (This action plan strategy is explained in the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions; see “Exercise Resources”.)
  • When you start an exercise program, try being active at different times of the day to determine what time works best for you. Pick a time that fits into your lifestyle and does not interfere with your diabetes control efforts. You may also find you have more or less pain and stiffness in your joints at certain times of day.
  • Remember that your most important goal is developing the habit of being physically active on a regular basis, not running a particular distance or being able to lift a particular amount of weight.
  • Dealing with pain
    It’s common to have some discomfort when you ask your body to do new activities. Signs that your workout is too strenuous include joint pain that lasts for more than an hour, increased joint swelling, or increased weakness or persistent fatigue.

    Muscle pain following exercise is usually a sign that your muscles did more than they are used to doing. Muscles that feel sore or tight a day or two after exercise are telling you that they are responding to the training and will get stronger. Doing some gentle aerobic activity to warm up the muscles followed by some gentle stretching may help them feel better. However, if muscle pain following exercise is so severe that it prevents you from doing normal activities like brushing your hair, contact your health-care provider for advice.

    Joint pain after exercise probably means that you overdid it and that you need to move less vigorously and for shorter periods in the future. If a particular activity seems to increase joint pain, try a different activity for a while to see if it helps. It usually takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you. To avoid injury, start slowly and don’t push yourself too hard.

    If you have tried to exercise in the past and have stopped because of increased pain, if you have trouble standing or walking because of lower-body limitations, or if, as noted earlier, you have rheumatoid arthritis, it would be wise to consult your doctor or a physical therapist before starting an exercise program. One of these professionals may be able to help you select activities, exercises, or classes that would suit your abilities. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to an occupational therapist or sports medicine specialist for more help.

    Diabetes precautions
    Some diabetes complications may be worsened by some types of physical activity. It is therefore recommended that people with diabetes have a medical exam that screens for the presence of any complications, including cardiovascular disease and diabetic retinopathy (eye disease), before beginning an exercise program. This is especially important for people over 35, those with Type 2 diabetes, and people who have had Type 1 diabetes for more than 15 years. People younger than 35 whose blood glucose levels are usually in their target range can safely take part in most moderate-intensity exercise programs. However, anyone who feels chest tightness, shortness of breath, or nausea during exercise, or who feels dizzy or likely to faint should stop exercising and seek medical help right away.

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    Also in this article:
    Exercise Resources



    More articles on Exercise



    Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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