Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make.

Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

Symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood sugar.

The general symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • weight loss
  • frequent urination
  • blurry vision
  • extreme fatigue
  • sores that don’t heal

Types of diabetes

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Type 2 diabetes
  3. Gestational diabetes


Diabetes impacts the body in many ways. It creates complications that can lead to limitations. Many people with diabetes experience:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Cognition impairments
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased activity tolerance
  • Decreased ability to perform daily activities
  • Limited mobility in your hands and feet
  • Decreased feeling
  • Difficulty with walking and balance

Diabetes can affect anyone at any age. Physical problems related to diabetes include weakness, loss of endurance, obesity, and balance problems. Diabetes often leads to the problem of lower physical activity (which causes many other diseases). Physical activity and exercise are effective ways to lower high blood sugar levels. 

How does Exercise affect Diabetes?

Research has clearly shown the benefits of exercise in both preventing and treating diabetes. In fact, large-scale randomized controlled trials have shown type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in up to 58 per cent of cases by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan. Exercise can help to regulate diabetes in the following ways:

  • helps to control and/or lower blood sugar levels
  • encourages insulin to work better by making your cells use more glucose
  • lowers body fat
  • helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it is clear that exercise has a vital role to play in its prevention and management. Exercise should thus be a routine part of everyone with diabetes. The Exercise and Sport Science Australia position statement (2012) recommends 210 minutes of exercise per week and no more than two consecutive days without exercise in someone with Type 2 diabetes. This can be moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise and can be things such as walking, swimming, cycling or resistance training. The most important thing is that you choose a type of exercise that you enjoy and are able to easily incorporate into your daily routine.

How can physiotherapy help with diabetes?

As experts in all things exercise, your physiotherapist is perfectly placed to help you devise an exercise programme. You will not only benefit physically, but you’ll enjoy it too! Whether you already have diabetes or are being proactive about preventing it, your physio will be able to:

  • Carry out an assessment of your physical condition. This will include muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, balance and coordination
  • Prescribe an individualised exercise programme to suit your needs. The exercise that will help you lose weight or body fat, improve muscle strength, increase stamina and improve balance
  • Progress your programme at an appropriate pace. This will ensure you are making gains while limiting the risk of injury.

Physiotherapy also has a key role to play in managing some of the complications of diabetes. For example, diabetes can cause circulation and nerve problems. This can lead to something called peripheral neuropathy, where the nerves in your limbs are damaged causing an altered or absent sensation as well as pain. Some people may develop a foot drop and need to be assessed for a splint. Diabetes can also affect your vision (retinopathy) which can lead to increased falls and risk of injury. Your physiotherapist can assist you with fall prevention strategies as well as recommendations for safety around the home. 


At PCA, our physiotherapists can evaluate you or your loved one to determine what program is right for you.

You can contact us at

+234 907 301 6018

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