Exercise is one of the best things you can do for diabetes management — and that’s not just health and wellness psychobabble. Studies have found a direct link between increased physical activity and reduced diabetes-associated complications.
But how are you supposed to exercise effectively when you’ve been warned about foot problems like diabetic neuropathy or if they’ve already set in?
If you’re looking for guidance on staying active when diabetic foot problems loom, you’re in the right place. Dr. Kelly L. Geoghan knows how important a healthy, active lifestyle is to diabetes management. Here, our team walks you through some best practices.
Understanding the problems diabetes causes for feet
Diabetes — especially if it's unmanaged — has the potential to disrupt almost every facet of your health. Many people recognize the correlation between diabetes and weight gain, but other complications lurk below the surface.
For instance, the longer your blood sugars are elevated, the more damaged your peripheral nerves become. Your peripheral nerves are those that branch off of your central nervous system and extend to your outer extremities, including your feet.
When you have damaged peripheral nerves related to diabetes, you have a condition called diabetic neuropathy. As the nerves in your feet weaken and malfunction, your feet can become so numb that you don’t notice injuries, cuts, sores, blisters, and other wounds. Diabetes also causes circulation issues, which can lead to slow healing in your feet.
If you don’t notice you’ve cut your foot and it doesn’t heal properly, the door is wide open for infection to set in. In the worst cases, infection leads to gangrene or tissue death.
Exercise and other healthy habits can keep these complications at bay. Here’s how you can do it safely.
Choose the right activities
If you already have nerve damage in your feet, we recommend avoiding repetitive, weight-bearing activities such as jogging, step aerobics, and sports like tennis and pickleball. All of that repeated, undue stress can cause foot ulcers, fractures, and joint problems that may not heal quickly or properly.
Instead, opt for low-impact activities like swimming, bicycling, rowing, seated exercises, and arm and upper-body exercise. Start slowly and build your strength and endurance so you can make exercising a daily habit.
Use the right equipment
This is no time to skimp on footwear. Invest in a pair of supportive, comfortable shoes designed to protect your feet during your activities. We recommend replacing shoes at the first sign of wear-and-tear.
Make sure you also pack your gym bag with extra pairs of clean socks made from breathable fabrics so you can change them when they get damp or sweaty. Dark, warm, moist places like sweaty socks are breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus.
Prioritize daily foot care
Diabetic foot care isn’t complicated, but it is something you’ll have to be intentional about. We can help, and there’s a lot you can do on your own at home. Every day, you should:
- Examine your feet for changes and injuries
- Especially after exercise, wash your feet and pat them dry
- Apply moisturizer to your feet, everywhere but between your toes
- Wear shoes or slippers at all times
- Trim your toenails carefully, cutting in a straight line rather than rounding the corners
Don’t treat corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, or other foot problems at home. Make an appointment with Dr. Geoghan instead for expert care.
Don’t skip your exercise
Diabetic neuropathy can be uncomfortable, but you can relieve your symptoms and improve your health if you exercise safely. Don’t skip your workouts because you’re worried about damaging your feet. Talk to us about your concerns, and we can provide more tips to keep yourself safe from top to toe.
If you’d like more information about diabetic foot care, contact Kelly L. Geoghan, DPM, at our Lutherville, Maryland, office. Call our friendly staff to find an appointment time that works for you, or request a time through our online booking tool.