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Hiking with Diabetes

Risks and Benefits

David W. Jenkins Arizona Podiatric Medicine Program, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ.

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Alexander Jenks Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, Glendale, AZ. Dr. Jenks is now with West Houston Medical Center, Houston, TX.

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Background:

Exercise is highly beneficial for persons with diabetes. Similar to many other patients, those with diabetes may be reluctant to exercise given a lack of motivation and proper instruction regarding an exercise prescription. In general, medical providers are poorly equipped to develop an exercise prescription and furnish motivation. Attempts to find activities that not only provide effective aerobic challenges but also are enjoyable to participate in are fraught with difficulty. Hiking as a potential option for a safe and enjoyable activity is discussed, including the possible downsides.

Methods:

Multiple publications were reviewed using key words.

Results:

A review of the literature uncovered limited publications or controlled trials that discussed the use of hiking per se as an activity for the management of diabetes. Newer studies reviewing weightbearing exercise and diabetic polyneuropathy and those discussing the advantages of trekking poles for balance and proprioception are cited in support of the recommendation for hiking as an activity for those with diabetes.

Conclusions:

Exercise has been shown to substantially benefit individuals with diabetes, but convincing patients with diabetes to exercise is daunting. Hiking, unlike other, more tedious exercise programs, may be an exercise option that persons with diabetes might find enjoyable. Hiking may encourage balance training and reduced ground reaction forces. These benefits may be augmented by trekking poles, which may likewise counter the concerns of the uneven surfaces that present challenges to the hiker with diabetes.

Corresponding author: David W. Jenkins, DPM, Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, 19555 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308. (E-mail: djenki@midwestern.edu)