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Walking & Diabetes

Walking is easy, relaxing and can be done practically anywhere. From a health standpoint, it improves circulation and mobility, promotes weight loss and can help to reduce stress. But for people with high blood sugar, or who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, walking can be a lifesaver.

Walking is one of the most widely recommended forms of exercise for individuals dealing with diabetes. It can not only help control the progression of the disease, but for people who take insulin, it may help to reduce the amount of medication needed. This is achieved primarily by improving glucose/blood sugar levels and reducing excess abdominal fat.

A physical activity such as walking can help muscles to absorb blood sugar, thus preventing it from building up and “gumming up” the bloodstream. This effect can last for hours or even days, but it’s not permanent. That’s why a regular walking regimen is essential for continued blood glucose control.

Excess fat around the abdomen causes inflammation in cells, making them even more resistant to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Regular walking burns calories, which can control weight and reduce the extra fat located around the belly.

But You Need to be Careful

Be sure to check with your physician before starting any new exercise program. If you have diabetes, your physicians can inform you if you need to take any special precautions based on what type of diabetes you have.

Diabetics need to be aware that the timing of walks can affect the regulation of blood sugar levels. Depending on the type of diabetes, pre-diabetes, Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, or Type 2 (non-insulin dependent), there are recommendations as to whether exercise should be done before after meals. Ask your doctor which timing is best for you and how much exercise you can tolerate before you need to replenish your body’s carbohydrates.

Foot health is also particularly important for anyone with diabetes. Breaks in the skin of the feet such as blisters or abrasions can be problematic and are often hard to detect since foot numbness often accompanies diabetes. Also, these injuries can be slow to heal and prone to infection, due to reduced blood flow in the small blood vessels of the extremities. Your physician can best guide you on the risks and prevention for these types of injuries.

Things to Consider

  • Always wear a diabetes ID bracelet and carry glucose pills, hard candy or sweet snacks in case your blood sugar drops.
  • Follow a doctor’s orders regarding when to check blood glucose levels. Diabetics may need to take readings before, after and even during their exercise routine.
  • Do a foot check after each walking session and check for cuts, abrasions and blisters.
  • Carry a healthy snack such as a piece of fresh fruit, dried fruit, or some peanuts or trail mix.

Learn more about Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare's Diabetes Program and Treatment.

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