• Exercise and diabetes
  • Feel the pain
  • First step
  • Dance fantastic

    Exercise and diabetes

    It's great to keep fit but be careful to look after your feet and avoid high-impact sports, writes Dominic Munnelly

    When Steve Redgrave won his fourth successive gold medal for rowing at the Olympics, the world was in awe of his monumental achievement. His outstanding success is even more inspirational when you consider he has type 2 diabetes.

    This is a man who pushed his body to the limits while dealing with a condition that some people feel burdened by throughout their life. Deirdre Smith, however, refused to view her diabetes as a burden.

    Inspired by Steve's achievements Deirdre, who had type 2 diabetes for 12 years, made the decision that she had been putting off for too long - use exercise to help control her diabetes.

    Deirdre had put on a lot of weight over the past five years due to a poor diet and as a result was having problems controlling her blood-sugar levels. She started walking three to five times a week and cut out all the problematic foods in her diet. After two months of this she felt so great that she decided to take some dance and aerobics classes twice a week.

    Feel the pain

    With her confidence and energy levels now soaring she ignored some numbness and tingling she felt in her feet and put it down to starting something new. During the proceeding few months the symptoms worsened as she struggled to control her wavering blood-glucose levels and found it difficult to balance and co-ordinate in classes. It became so bad that she could not do her classes due to the pain she felt in her toes, hands and feet.

    A visit to her doctor and a foot exam confirmed her fears - due to taking up exercise and not modifying her insulin dose adequately she had developed peripheral neuropathy.

    First step

    The first step was to take her blood glucose levels into the normal range. This was achieved through better blood-glucose monitoring, meal-planning and non-impact aerobic exercise in her local gym.

    Deirdre was now aware of the importance of foot care as she did not want the condition to worsen and face the horrendous possibility of amputation (more than half of all lower limb operations involve people with diabetes).

    She washed, carefully dried and moisturised her feet every day. In the gym she was delighted to discover the amazing benefits of non-impact exercises.

    Weight training, stretching, back and stomach exercises helped tone her body and the cross trainers and swimming improved her fitness level.

    Her programme was carefully monitored and adjusted as the pain and numbness from the peripheral neuropathy was eliminated.

    Dance fantastic

    After over a year of regular training in the gym, Deirdre now has returned to the dance classes she enjoys so much but does not overdo it. She combines the classes with two to three days of non-impact work in the gym.

    Deirdre found the weight training especially beneficial as it improved her strength and muscle tone. Her blood-glucose levels were much easier to maintain within normal ranges due to this form of exercise.

    Dominic Munnelly,

    BSc Sports Science, NLP


    Issue September 03