You know that aerobics is beneficial for diabetic neuropathy, but what about cardio exercise to prevent this condition in the first place?

Diabetic neuropathy is a painful condition of the lower extremities.

• So the question isn’t. “Is exercise good for DPN?”

• The question is: Can cardio workouts prevent the development of peripheral neuropathy in diabetics?

Researchers set out to find the answer, for both type 1 and type 2. Seventy-eight diabetics were in the study, and none had any sign of symptom of PN at the time of enrollment.

They were divided into two groups.

• One group did a supervised four hours/week brisk walking regimen on a treadmill; 50 to 85 percent heart rate reserve.

• The second group did no exercise.

• The study went for four years, because the goal was to investigate the effect of long-term exercise on preventing diabetes neuropathy.

Amazing Results

• In the non-exercising group, 17 percent developed motor peripheral neuropathy, and 29.8 percent developed sensory PN.

• In the group who exercised, none developed motor peripheral neuropathy, and only 6.45 percent developed sensory PN.

The paper’s conclusion states: “This study suggests, for the first time, that long-term aerobic exercise training can prevent the onset or modify the natural history of DPN.”

Do you have diabetes?

Then you should do everything possible to prevent peripheral neuropathy.

“I can say that there is already some evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness training has the ability to promote peripheral nerve regeneration, so it is not surprising that Balducci et al. are reporting that training regularly may prevent or reverse some of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy in the feet,” says Sheri Colberg, PhD, Professor Emerita, Exercise Science, Old Dominion University, founder of Diabetes Motion, and one of the world’s leading experts on diabetes and exercise.

“Unlike larger nerves, peripheral ones can regrow, and cardio training promotes greater blood flow to these areas (feet, hands) and greater capillary density,” continues Colberg.

“Improving blood flow to the feet may, by itself, allows these nerves to regrow or stay healthier.”

If You Have Diabetes but Don’t Exercise, what’s Stopping You?

Peripheral neuropathy from diabetes is common. It hurts and causes loss of sensation, which is how infected wounds in the feet can develop.

If the wounds aren’t treated in a timely manner, they can become severely infected, causing loss of part or much of the limb.

Don’t wait until you become an amputee before embarking on a regular walking program – and brisk walking, not strolling.

If you can comfortably hold your partner’s hand and have a conversation while walking, you’re not exercising effectively enough.

  • Pump your arms and walk briskly to elevate heart rate.
  • Walk hills.
  • Mix in some jogging.
  • Use hand weights.

If you use a treadmill, do not hold on (unless sipping water or turning around). Holding on will derange natural gait mechanics and posture, and can result in repetitive stress injuries to the hips.

Holding onto a treadmill mimics using a walker.

If you think you’ll fall off without holding on, then get used to a slower speed, and then gradually increase it as your body adjusts.

• The full report is in Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications (Balducci et al, July-August 2006).

The mission of Diabetes Motion is to provide practical guidance about blood glucose management to active diabetics. Dr. Sheri Colberg is the author of “Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies.” 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Source: cardio exercise: can it