Exercising With Diabetes Complications

If you want to know more about exercising safely with specific diabetes complications, check out the list below. It is also important to talk to your healthcare team.

This can serve as a guide to the types of activity that might work for you.

Heart Disease

Caution!
Very strenuous activity, heavy lifting or straining, isometric exercises, exercise in extreme heat or cold.

Beneficial Activities
Moderate activity such as walking, daily chores, gardening, fishing. Moderate dynamic lifting, stretching. Activity in moderate climate.

High Blood Pressure

Caution!
Very strenuous activity, heavy lifting or straining and isometric exercise.

Beneficial Activities
Most moderate activity such as walking, moderate lifting, weight lifting with light weights and high repetitions, stretching.

Nephropathy (Also refer to blood pressure guidelines)

Caution!
Strenuous activity.

Beneficial Activities
Light to moderate daily activities such as walking, light household chores, gardening, and water exercise.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Caution!
High-impact, strenuous, or prolonged weight-bearing activities such as walking a long distance, running on a treadmill, jumping/hopping, exercise in heat or cold, weight-bearing exercise when you have a foot injury, open sore, or ulcer.

Beneficial Activities
Light to moderate daily activities, exercise in a moderate climate, moderate weight-bearing activities that are low-impact (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming, chair exercises). Moderate weight-bearing exercises like walking are okay once foot ulcers have healed.

*Those with peripheral neuropathy need to have appropriate footwear and should check their feet every day.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Caution!
Exercise in extreme heat where dehydration can occur, activities requiring rapid changes in movement that may result in fainting. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program - you may need an exercise stress test.

Beneficial Activities
Mild to moderate aerobic activities and resistance training, but increase the length of time you exercise slowly. Follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Retinopathy

Caution!
Strenuous exercise, activities that require heavy lifting and straining, breath holding while lifting or pushing, isometric exercise, high-impact activities that cause jarring, head-down activities.

Beneficial Activities
Moderate activities that are low impact (e.g. walking, cycling, water exercise), moderate daily chores that do not involve heavy lifting, straining, or the head to be lower than the waist.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Caution!
High-Impact activities.

Beneficial Activities
Moderate walking (may do intermittent exercise with periods of walking followed by periods of rest), non-weight-bearing exercise: swimming cycling, chair exercises.

Osteoporosis or arthritis

Caution!
High-Impact activities.

Beneficial Activities
Moderate daily activities, walking, water exercises, resistance exercise (e.g. light lifting activities), stretching.

*Adapted from I Hate to Exercise, 2nd edition, by Charlotte Hayes, MMSc, MS, RD, CDE. ©American Diabetes Association.

Additional Resource

See our "Complications" page for detailed discussions of these conditions.

  • Last Reviewed: December 17, 2013
  • Last Edited: October 10, 2014

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