September 2020

Don’t Let a Chronic Condition Sideline You from Exercise


You may think that a chronic condition such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or COPD disqualifies you from exercise. In fact, being active is one of the best ways you can help manage, and sometimes prevent, serious medical issues.

Focus on movement that challenges your heart and lungs. Commonly referred to as cardio or aerobic exercise, this includes walking, hiking, running, biking, and swimming. Regular exercise is also a good way to improve your overall health and help stave off heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and hypertension.

Before you head out, though, keep in mind some do’s and don’ts.


Do: Understand how exercise affects your blood sugar. Check your levels before and after activity and adjust your insulin or carbohydrate intake accordingly.

Don’t: Push yourself too far, too fast. Gradually add more time and intensity each week.

Do: Wear proper-fitting athletic shoes and cotton socks to protect your feet. After exercise, check feet for sores, blisters, or cuts.

Don’t: Become dehydrated. Drink water before, during, and after exercising.


Do: Include a cool-down period after activity to avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Don’t: Exercise at too high an intensity. If you can speak in brief sentences during an activity, you’re working at the proper level.

Do: Consult with a medical professional before undertaking new physical activities, particularly if you also have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition.

Don’t: Hold your breath while exercising, as it can spike blood pressure.


Do: Include a warm-up period and slowly ramp up to full activity.

Don’t: Exercise outside when the air quality is poor.

Do: Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth when exercising outside in cold weather.

Don’t: Continue if you experience chest pain, coughing, or a sense of restricted breathing.


Do: Be realistic about the types and amount of activity you can handle. It may be as simple as stretching or walking a short distance. Every bit of movement counts.

Don’t: Let your breathing get out of sync. Slow, steady inhalation and exhalation is the goal. Pursing your lips while exhaling is a good way to make sure your breath is controlled.

Do: Exercise with supplemental oxygen if you normally use it.

Don’t: Continue exercising if you get nauseous or experience chest pain.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.