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From Enid, Oklahoma, USA:

I am a fifty-two year old non-insulin dependent diabetic. I am in reasonably good condition other than the diabetes. Lately I have been experiencing some circulation problems in my legs and feet, lower arms and hands and around my mouth. Could you recommend any exercises designed specifically to improve circulation?


You mentioned that you have been experiencing some circulation problems, however, you did not give me any information on some of the symptoms you have been experiencing.

The first thing that comes to mind is what is called peripheral neuropathy, or nerve disease. Damage to the nerves due to diabetes comes in two ways. One kind is damage to nerves that control involuntary processes, such as heart rate and digestion. This is called autonomic neuropathy. The other kind is damage to nerves in areas away from the central nervous system, such as the hands, arms, feet and legs. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage to the extremities. If you have Peripheral neuropathy, you may have pain, tingling, and numbness where the nerve damage is.

Damage to the blood vessels in the legs and feet can lead to poor circulation. Poor circulation can make your feet feel cold and look blue and swollen. Exercise will not help cure peripheral neuropathy, but the effect of regular exercise will help maintain strength, flexibility, and circulation to the damaged areas. A combination of controlled blood glucose levels and exercise may help relieve the discomfort. Keep in mind the relief may take weeks to months.

Exercises recommended for individuals with circulation problems/neuropathy and loss of sensation include the following non-weight bearing exercises:

  1. Swimming
  2. Bicycling
  3. Rowing
  4. Chair exercises
  5. Arm exercises
Try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed, which can interfere with blood flow. Always check with your physician before you start any new exercise program.


Original posting 12 May 1998
Posted to Exercise and Sports


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:58
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