Diabetes And Cycling: Why It May Be Even Better For You Than Walking

We know that exercise is good for us, and it’s especially important for people with diabetes as exercise can lower your A1C and blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity. Hyperglycemia wreaks havoc on our bodies, but exercise is one of the ways we can fight back and lower blood sugar in the long- and short-term.

But we know that already, right? We’re perhaps even a little tired of hearing about it?

The thing is, exercise is great, but there are legitimate barriers to exercise that keep people from doing it on a consistent basis. It’s time-consuming. It’s intimidating. And for people with diabetes, even simple exercises, like walking, can put a lot of pressure on the feet.

Diabetes puts people at risk for foot problems, so added pressure on the feet may not be a good idea. What’s a well-intentioned person to do?

Photo: AdobeStock/WavebreakmediaMicro
Photo: AdobeStock/WavebreakmediaMicro

As easy as riding a bike?

Some experts say that cycling is actually better for people with diabetes than walking, because cycling can provide a great cardiovascular workout while placing much less pressure on your feet. One study found that cycling places less than a third the pressure on your feet as walking.

The study was small, but it makes sense. In cycling, most of your body weight is supported, reducing pressure on the feet. But you aren’t getting off easy because you have to push your foot down to propel yourself forward. In fact, depending on the amount of resistance used, cycling can provide both a cardiovascular and a resistance workout. It does double duty and puts less pressure on your feet. It’s a win-win!

Photo: AdobeStock/luckybusiness
Photo: AdobeStock/luckybusiness

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The Key to Success

There are several types of cycling (more on that in a moment), but the key to success is keeping your heart rate up. When walking, you have to move and support your whole bodyweight. This does put pressure on your feet, but it also means that your heart rate goes up and you get a quality workout with all the benefits. Cycling requires a bit more honesty because you can control how hard you are working. If you don’t work enough to elevate your heart rate, then you are basically just spinning your wheels.

Photo: flickr/Amanda Johnson
Photo: flickr/Amanda Johnson

The study that found cycling reduces pressure on the feet also found that participants who cycled for 20 minutes twice weekly for 12 weeks had an average of a 19.2 percent drop in blood sugar levels right after exercise, and consistent exercise can also reduce A1C. Another study found that cycling just 20 miles a week (remember, cycling is much faster than walking) resulted in about a 50 percent decrease in risk of coronary artery disease.

Other benefits of cycling are:

  • Less pressure on the joints than walking or running
  • It doubles as a mode of transportation
  • Helps you enjoy the great outdoors
  • Many options for different fitness levels

“NEXT” to see which type of cycling is right for you!

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