Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that results from prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels. Most commonly, it causes pain in the feet, legs, arms and hands, but it can also affect the digestive system and blood vessels.

Recent studies have shown that exercise can reduce the symptoms of neuropathy and even help you control your blood sugar.

Exercise and Neuropathy Pain

One of the key benefits of exercise is improved blood circulation. This increases the flow of oxygen and subsequently strengthens nerve tissue. Under the guidance of a physician, diabetics suffering from neuropathy can:

• Improve their physical function, mood and pain tolerance
• Prevent muscle atrophy
• Control weight
• Control blood sugar levels

According to a study published in The Journal of Diabetes Complications, people who took a brisk, one-hour walk four times a week on a treadmill slowed the progression of nerve damage. Similarly, at the University of Kansas, participants in a 10-week aerobic and strengthening exercise program experienced less neuropathic nerve fiber branching, supporting the value of exercise in neuropathy treatment.

What Types of Exercise are Best?

Diabetics should engage in a comprehensive exercise routine that involves:

• Aerobic exercise
• Flexibility training
• Strength training
• Balance exercises

Activities that the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy recommends include brisk walking, swimming and riding a stationary bicycle. In addition, stretching muscles regularly will improve joint flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.

Finally, be sure to incorporate strength training (resistance training, weights and isometrics) into your routine. This will help you build strong bones and muscles and raise your metabolic rate, which encourages weight loss.

Before You Begin

Talk to your doctor and physical therapist before you start an exercise program to be certain that the program you choose will control your neuropathy safely and effectively.

To learn more about this topic:
Three Neuropathy-Friendly Exercises to Try
Exercise Is Medicine
Physical Exercise and Using Insulin