Q: I am 68 years old and have type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, I also have a serious hernia that causes me to lean back and lose my balance while walking. Now, I’m so out of shape that I can’t stay on my feet for long before tiring. I know that exercise is good for me, but what, if anything, could I do to get back into shape?
A: Kudos to you for not giving up! Many people with (and without) diabetes have difficulty exercising in a standing position. Conditions such as poor circulation in the legs, painful neuropathy (nerve damage), arthritis, back problems, balance issues, and various joint ailments can make certain types of physical activity difficult. The good news is that there are many good “non-weight-bearing” options — activities that don’t require you to be on your feet.
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Seated cardio (aerobic) exercise options include using a stationary bike (upright or recumbent), a rowing machine, or an arm ergometer (arm cycle), as well as participating in chair exercise classes (which are available both online and on DVDs). Water exercise may also be a good option, as the buoyancy of the water can provide nice support, not to mention a “cushion” in case you accidentally tip over. Water options include walking, doing laps with a kickboard, or taking water fitness classes.
You can perform many forms of strength training in a seated position using elastic resistance bands or household objects (cans, bottles, rolls of coins, etc.) as weights. Exercises that can be performed on a chair or bed or the floor include shoulder (overhead) presses, front arm raises, bicep curls, chest flies, shrugs, leg curls, leg extensions, abdominal crunches, and back extensions. Directions for performing these and other strength exercises can be found online or with the guidance of a trainer at your local gym. Check with your doctor before adopting any new exercises to ensure they’re a good fit for you, and enjoy your workout!
Want to learn more about staying active? Read “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals,” “Making Exercise Fun,” and “Exercise Recovery Tips.”