Physiotherapy, Exercise and Diabetes

posted Jul 10, 2012, 7:02 PM by LASP Team

Everybody benefits from regular exercise. Whether you have a medical condition like diabetes or are at risk of diabetes it plays an important role in keeping you healthy.

For a person with diabetes exercise helps with:

·         Improved insulin effectiveness

·         Improved weight control

·         Lowering your blood pressure

·         Reducing your risk of heart disease

·         Reducing the stress & tension of everyday life

Role of Physiotherapy

·         Physiotherapists have an essential role in all aspects of diabetes management, from prevention to rehabilitation following complications. Increasingly, physiotherapists are becoming involved in diabetes prevention programs and providing services to at risk individuals also. The Physiotherapists at Lifestyle and Sports Physiotherapy are well placed to advise you on exercise strategies that will work for you.

·         Let us also assist with management of the consequences of diabetes including foot disorders, balance difficulties and protective strategies to prevent further damage.

·         Through safe exercise programs, physiotherapy interventions can also assist in balancing cholesterol levels and improving insulin regulation, in some patients.

Getting Started

Before commencing a regular exercise program see your doctor for a full medical examination.  Your physiotherapist can then help you start by prescribing a regime appropriate to your lifestyle, level of activity, time available to exercise & considering any other health conditions you have which may be effected by exercise.

Suitable Types of Exercise

Suitable types of exercise depend on the individual. Here are some suggestions for you to discuss with your Physiotherapist:

·         Walking

·         Swimming

·         Water aerobics

·         Golfing

·         Cycling

·         Exercise bike

·         Walking machine

·         Gym based exercise

Increasing your general physical activity is also helpful.  For example, taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting up to change the TV station instead of using the remote control, doing a little more housework or gardening would all be beneficial to managing your diabetes well.

Amount of Exercise

Ideally, you should be doing about 30 minutes of exercise every day. If this is not possible, then this time can be divided in 3 x 10 minutes sessions.

Intensity of Exercise

You do not need to puff to gain the benefits of exercise. Aim for moderate intensity. This means you should still be able to talk as you exercise without becoming breathless.

Other Exercise Tips

·         Drink extra fluid before, during (only if prolonged exercise) and after exercise to avoid dehydration. The fluid may be water or a sweetened drink if extra carbohydrate is required. 250 ml every 15 minutes or one litre of fluid per hour is recommended.

·         Take care of your feet when exercising. Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes. Always inspect your feet before and after exercise. Ulcers or other lesions on the feet are a serious danger for people with diabetes. It is wise to avoid exercise that causes stress to the feet (e.g. running). Exercise which poses minimal weight or stress on the feet is ideal such as riding an exercise bike or brisk walking in good footwear.

·         Take extra carbohydrate before and during exercise to prevent hypoglycaemia. Extra carbohydrate is often needed after exercise. Discuss adjusting carbohydrate intake with your doctor or dietitian.

·         Monitor your blood glucose levels before, if possible during (at least initially), and after exercise to assess your requirements for extra food.

·         It may be necessary to reduce your insulin dose prior to exercise. Insulin adjustment varies with each individual. Discuss appropriate adjustments to suit your exercise schedule with your doctor.

·         Wear sun block when exercising outdoors.

·         People with diabetes are generally discouraged from strenuous physical activity if they feel unwell or have ketones present in their blood or urine.


For more information about diabetes, visit the Diabetes Australia website.

Contact us on (02) 4647 3373 to speak to a Physiotherapist about managing your diabetes well!