What can physical therapy do for diabetes?

A disorder that we often run into as healthcare providers is Diabetes. There are several different types of Diabetes including Type-1, Type-2, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. The Primary types of Diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes results from a deficiency in the body's ability to produce insulin. Although Type-1 can occur at any age, it most often progresses in the younger populations. By far and large the most common type of diabetes is type 2 and this form results from a progressive loss in the ability to make insulin and often the body will build resistances to the insulin. 

Along with medical management, it has been proven that physical activity is a critical component to the management of glucose levels and the overall health of individuals with diabetes. The major types of physical activity found to be beneficial to the health of individuals with diabetes are Aerobic exercise, resistant training, flexibility exercises, and balance exercises. 

Aerobic exercise:    Activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, swimming. In type-1 diabetes, aerobic exercise has shown to improve cardiorespiratory function and decrease insulin resistance. In Type 2 diabetes regular aerobic exercise reduces A1C levels as well as insulin resistance.

Resistance training:   Exercises with free weights, weight machines, body weight, or elastic resistance bands. The benefits of resistance training include improved insulin sensitivity, bone mineral density, blood pressure control, and cardiovascular health.

Flexibility exercises: Improves range of motion around joints by completing activities such as stretching, yoga, tai chi, ect. Flexibility is often more important in older adults with diabetes who frequently have limited joint mobility. 

Balance exercises:   Improves gait as well as prevents falls even when peripheral neuropathy is in effect from diabetes. 

There are specific guidelines for exercises based on the type of Diabetes you may have and other specific factors unique to your level of health. For this reason it is often very helpful to consult healthcare professionals, including physical therapists; In order to achieve your particular set of health goals with respect to diabetes and physical activity. 

 For more information please visit: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness

Ryan Chakir, DPT



Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association

Sheri R. Colberg, Ronald J. Sigal, Jane E. Yardley, Michael C. Riddell, David W. Dunstan, Paddy C. Dempsey, Edward S. Horton, Kristin Castorino, Deborah F. TateDiabetes Care Nov 2016, 39 (11) 2065-2079; DOI: 10.2337/dc16-1728

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