Home-based exercise for people with diabetes

Last update: 25/03/2020

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, governments in many countries have restricted the movement of their citizens, confining them to the home environment. Public exercise facilities such as gyms, sports centres and swimming pools have been closed.

Regular physical activity is of great benefit to the general population and even more for people living with chronic conditions like diabetes. Daily physical activity is an integral part of diabetes management, helping to maintain blood glucose at recommended levels.

Physical activity should be seen as a hobby and a valuable tool to overcome the monotony of the difficult confinement that many people around the world are currently experiencing.

Below are a series of daily exercises that can be performed at home, provided by ANIAD, the Italian National Association of Athletes with Diabetes. The exercise intensity of each activity is comparable to one hour of brisk walking, resulting in an energy expenditure of 150-200 Kcal.

  • Treadmill: one-hour brisk walking (no need to run), which can also be split into three 20-minute sessions. If possible, the slope should be adapted to individual fitness levels, to simulate an uphill walk.
  • Stationary bicycle (either reclined or classic): two 15-minute sessions at variable intensity (if the equipment allows it). The sessions can be longer on a reclined bicycle since the effort is reduced by the backrest.
  • Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, deep stationary lunges, sit-ups or crunches (to strengthen the abdomen) and forward flexes (to strengthen the lower-back muscles). These help maintain muscle tone and, when performed correctly, can have excellent results.
  • Joint mobility and stretching exercises that can be sourced from common workout, yoga and pilates’ routines. (Example video)

Other ways to train at home:

  • Walk up and down 8 sets of stairs, for at least 6 floors. This is not recommended for people with type 2 diabetes who do not exercise regularly.
  • Jump rope
  • Use small weights and home fitness accessories such as rubber bands, kettlebells, wrist weights, ankle weights and pockets filled with heavy objects. Makeshift objects can also be used, such as buckets, cases, bottles filled with water or even small backpacks filled with objects of different weight.

These suggestions can be used to develop short, fragmented or continuous training sessions. Here is an example of a series of “total body” exercises involving all main muscle groups, which anyone can do at home:

  • Two series of 20 Jumping Jacks (on-site jumps with synchronized leg and arm spreading and closing)
  • Two series of 15 crunches (abdomen strengthening)
  • Two series of 15 forward flexes (lower back muscle strengthening)
  • Two series of 10 rowing exercises using dumbbells and slight forward flexion (back muscle strengthening)
  • Two series of 8 push-ups (pectoral muscle strengthening – knees to floor for beginners)
  • Two series of 8 sitting/standing hand-weight lifts (shoulder muscle strengthening)
  • Five minutes of treadmill training or stationary/reclined bicycle
  • Three series x 15 squats (lower limb strengthening)
  • 20 minutes treadmill training
  • Final stretching and relaxation.

Make sure to avoid overload and adapt exercise intensity to individual ability and fitness level. It is also important to monitor your health before, during and after exercising.

The recommendations above were developed and kindly made available by the Scientific Council of ANIAD: Drs. Gerardo Corigliano, Giuseppe Pipicelli, Felice Strollo; Alessio Calabro’ and Matteo Vandoni.

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