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Exercises to Avoid When You Have Diabetes

Regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. It is good for your cardiovascular system and can help control blood glucose levels. However, there are times when you need to be careful about exercising with diabetes.  If you have certain diabetes complications, there are exercises that you should avoid. Michael See, MS, RCEP, Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Joslin Diabetes Center, discusses certain situations that may require you to modify your fitness program

The following complications may affect your exercise routine:.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR)—Patients with diabetes and active PDR should avoid activities that involve strenuous lifting; harsh, high-impact activities; or placing the head in an inverted position for extended periods of time.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy— Diabetic peripheral neuropathy may result in loss of sensation and position awareness of your feet. Repetitive exercise on insensitive feet can lead to ulceration and fractures. “Limit your choice of exercise to low impact or non-weight bearing activities,” says See.

Advanced kidney disease— Individuals with diabetes and advanced kidney disease can engage in moderate intensity activities, but should avoid strenuous activity.


High blood glucose levels— Individuals with type 1 diabetes should avoid exercise if fasting blood glucose is higher than 250 mg/dl and ketones are present. Caution should be used if glucose levels are higher than 300 and no ketones are present.  Individuals with type 2 diabetes should avoid exercise if blood glucose is higher than 400 mg/dl.  Monitoring blood glucose before, after and possibly during physical activity is necessary to keep blood glucose within an appropriate range.

Always consult with an exercise or health care professional before beginning any fitness program.

To make an appointment with a Joslin exercise physiologist, please call (617) 732-2400.

Staying Healthy With Diabetes -- Physical Activity & Fitness explains how physical activity can lower your blood glucose, provides information about weight loss, managing highs and lows during physical activity, exercising when you have other physical problems and how to avoid the road blocks to fitness.

Click here to purchase this book from the Joslin Store.

Page last updated: October 20, 2014