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Ask the experts: What kind of exercises can I get my diabetic parents to do safely?

Published on:9 November 2020, 17:44pm IST
You can get your diabetic parents to try these exercises for diabetes to ensure they stay safe from the complications this disease brings along with it.
Dr Tina Jain
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These exercises are safe for your diabetic parents. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Type-2 diabetes, which is usually caused by lifestyle habits and diet, is associated with numerous health complications–including decline in muscular strength and exercise capacity. Physical activity and certain workouts can help prevent this, thus decreasing the risk of physical function and heart disease. 

An effective exercise programme that can be followed by people suffering from diabetes should include: 

1. Aerobic exercises

These are also known as cardiovascular exercises. Exercises such as brisk walking, swimming, dancing, jogging, and cycling are few types of aerobic exercises a diabetic person can do.

Aerobic activity helps the body to use insulin more effectively. It also helps to increase circulation, decrease the risk of heart disease, enhance the strength of the bones, decrease cholesterol levels, and help in weight management. You should ensure your diabetic parents get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. If it is difficult to start with half an hour, break it up into 10-minute sessions and gradually build it up to 30 minutes, three times a week.

2. Strengthening exercises

This is also known as resistance training, which can include exercises such as lifting free weights and lifting objects like water bottles, therabands, and exercises with body weights like sit-ups, squats, and push-ups.

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Strength exercises can go a long way! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Strengthening exercises help in lowering blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity. It also helps to build stronger bones and muscles, and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. These exercises should be done for about 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times per week.

3. Stretching exercises

These are important for everyone, including those with diabetes. Your diabetic parents can do exercises like: triceps stretch, calf stretch, and hamstring stretch.

Stretching decreases the risk of injury from aerobic and strengthening exercises, increases flexibility, prevents muscle soreness, lower stress levels, and increases the range of motion of joints.

A word of caution: Diabetics should do these exercises at a safe intensity

These exercises should be done gradually and safely. Overdoing them can be harmful. Stop exercising once you reach 65% to 80% of your maximum heart rate.

Maximum heart rate can be calculated for your parents as: 208-(0.7 X your age). For example, if your parent’s age is 65, their maximum heart rate will be 162.5 beats per minute. And 65% to 80% of that should be their target heart rate after exercises.

Ensure they check their pulse before and after their workout. Maintain a record to know to track their progress. Tell them to stop exercising if they feel weakness, confusion, fatigue, tingling sensation, or if their blood sugar falls below 70mg/dl.

Dr Tina Jain Dr Tina Jain

Dr Tina Jain is a physiotherapist at Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.