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Regular exercise may help control your diabetes, which can reduce your risk of severe
diabetic neuropathy. Depending on what areas of your
body have been affected by nerve damage, though, you may need to modify some
aspects of your exercise program so that other problems don't develop.
Before beginning an exercise program, ask your doctor to do a
thorough exam of your legs and feet for signs of peripheral neuropathy. And make sure you have properly fitted shoes to protect your feet from
If you have nerve damage in your feet, you need to avoid
repetitive, weight-bearing exercises, such as jogging, prolonged walking, and
step aerobics. Repetitive stress on feet affected by neuropathy can lead to
ulcers, fractures, and joint deformities. Stick to exercises that do not put
stress on your feet, such as:
Autonomic neuropathy affecting the heart and blood vessels may
limit—but not eliminate—your capacity for exercise. It increases your risk of
having a heart attack (often a
silent heart attack) during strenuous exercise and may
cause sudden shifts in your blood pressure during or after exercise. Make sure
you talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. He or she can
help you plan a gentle program that will improve your health without pushing
you beyond your body's limits.
Autonomic neuropathy may reduce the body's ability to regulate its
own temperature (thermoregulation). Abnormally profuse or abnormally reduced
sweating are the usual signs of this problem. People with this type of
neuropathy should not exercise in very hot or very cold environments because
their bodies cannot safely adapt to these temperatures. Use silica gel or air
midsoles and wear polyester or polyester/cotton blend socks to keep your feet
dry during exercise. It is also important to drink plenty of water before,
during, and after exercise. The body is better able to control its temperature
when it is well hydrated.
April 12, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
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