I Can't Exercise Because of My Feet

Get the facts on your health before you get to moving.

Joy Pape By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

We all seem to have excuses why we can't do things to improve our diabetes management, especially when it comes to exercise or being more physically active. Many people with diabetes say, "I can't exercise because of my feet." After years of experience with diabetes and foot care, I listen when someone tells me that. For many, it's not just an excuse not to exercise, it's the truth…that is, until they learn what they can do. Let's face it, most of us can do something more. Having diabetes and foot problems doesn't excuse you from moving more, but there are some things you need to know.

Know what kind of foot problems you have.
It's important that all people who have diabetes also see a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a doctor who treats people who have foot problems. Podiatrists also help people keep their feet healthy by providing regular foot examinations and treatment.

If you have not yet had a visit with a podiatrist, ask your health care provider to refer you to one. Then, when you see your podiatrist, ask him or her what kind of foot problems you have. You may know your feet are bothering you, but you don't know exactly why. Your podiatrist should be able to diagnose the type of foot problem you have.

Know what kind of exercise you would like to do.
Discuss the types of exercise you want to do with your podiatrist. He or she will then most likely recommend whether the exercise you want to do is appropriate for you and teach you how to do it safely. Teaching you how to do it safely will require that you have the correct footwear for the activity. Your podiatrist will refer you to a certified pedorthist to work with you and your footwear according to your podiatrist's footwear prescription, or your podiatrist will personally help you select the shoes, socks, and possibly custom made orthotics. Wearing proper footwear should help you do the exercise correctly without causing problems.

Know how to exercise safely with diabetes and foot problems.
Before starting any exercise program, it is important you speak with your primary health care provider about your plans. You may be able to get started right away, or you may need to take some tests to make sure the exercise is safe for you.

With most foot problems, wearing the correct footwear can make all the difference. For example, if you have hammertoes, wearing shoes with a large toebox can prevent you from ulcers forming on the joints of your toes due to joints rubbing against your shoe.

If you have peripheral neuropathy, it is important to avoid repetitive weight bearing activities such as jogging, taking l-o-n-g walks, or step aerobics. This repetition can in time cause foot sores, broken bones, and even deformities.

Some activities that don't put stress on your feet include:

  • Bicycling
  • Seated exercises
  • Arm and upper body exercises
  • Swimming
  • Just being more active

Remember, when it comes to diabetes and footcare, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of treatment. Two of the most important things you can do when it comes to your feet are:

  • Work to get and keep your blood glucose in normal range.
  • Look at your feet at least daily. Look at the top of your foot, the bottom, between your toes, your heels, don't miss a spot. If you can't see well enough, get a mirror designed to help you reach your foot or have someone look at your feet for you. If you notice any changes such as redness, a new sore, or have any concerns, stop doing that particular exercise and contact your health care provider right away.

So, go, get your help to get moving, and EnJOY!

Read Joy's bio here.

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: July 08, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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