Best types of exercise for Diabetic Retinopathy

I’m reading a lot about how strenuous weightlifting and jogging should be avoided. I have an elliptical, but I’m wondering if I should sell it and purchase a stationary bike instead? Swimming is too much work to fit in before I go to work, but I like getting in a 20 min workout first thing.

Anyone have experiencing navigating exercise with DR?

1 Like

This topic was of interest to me as I am in early stage of DR, found this haven’t read yet but hope it helps.


You can pretty much make anything strenuous if you want. But you can certainly use an elliptical in a moderate way.


I’ve started biking on a trainer. So far i love it. It is low impact and you can easily fit in 20 minutes of exercise on it.

Several members here bike and helped me get started, so this is a good place to ask your questions!


Cool! What brand/model did you get (if you don’t mind sharing)?


@jo_jo before I get into exercise devices I want to share my diabetic retinopathy story. I am type 2 currently on a pump. Around 10 years ago when I was on Metformin and Lantus a bit of retinopathy was spotted in my annual retina scan. Over the years it never got worse and after transitioning to MDI and the pump it has disappeared completely. My retina specialist and I give credit to improved and more stable blood glucose levels with the pump (Tandem with C-IQ). I mention this because the fine vessels of the retina and kidneys are easily damaged by BG in the 180mg/dl and higher.

On exercise and diabetic retinopathy, well, I did a little research for you. This site suggest that wimming, cycling, walking, dancing or using an elliptical exerciser are OK with non-proliferative retinopathy.

Proliferation retinopathy is more severe with the growth of abnormal new blood vessel on the retina. Very low impact exercises such as swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, low impact aerobics and walking and avoiding

I notice that they dropped the elliptical trainer for patients with proliferation retinopathy. But this is a very severe development of retinopathy. My guess is that the elliptical is OK for you.

@Trying and I use actual bicycles mounted on smart trainers. There are a lot of different stationary bikes available ranging in cost from $200 to nearly $4000 USD. Peloton has reduced their over priced unit and app. Echelon is still a bit cheaper depending upon the model.

This link has several lower priced units with the top rated one Yosuda at a reduced price of $279 USD at Amazon. It has good review, but who knows?

I do have a DeskCycle. I use it in front of the TV often after dinner. It really drops my BG when it starts climbing after dinner. I mention this because the link to the 3 stationary bikes has the DeskCycle pop up.


I bought the Saris H3 trainer for my old mountain bike. It was USD 469, plus 19 for a separate cassette. Im really happy with it. It comes with a month free trial of both Zwift and Rouvy apps.

I was a complete novice on bike trainers and indoor bikes. Several members here helped me. Thanks @CarlosLuis , @JessicaD and others!


I am the peloton nerd of the group and love my setup, but if I were to do it over, I might go with a trainer (but I already have a road bike gathering dust in the basement) or a peloton-dupe (like echelon) with an iPad mounted to it and just use the peloton app. @Trying is trying out some of the new apps/technologies and can weigh in. You can purchase access on a monthly basis to peloton’s app as well as Zwift and others.

The peloton bike itself is weighty and solid and I do love it. I’ve been doing spin classes since the late 90s – so long as you have a bike that handles well and access to classes that you like, you’ll be set up well. I have heard that the echelon is a good set up. If you’d like, I can send you a code for a free month of the peloton app (if anyone else is interested, just let me know – I don’t receive any benefit from peloton for this; it’s just a nice way to check out all of the classes that they offer). (I also use the app for yoga, strength training, stretching, pilates, meditation…)

Good luck with this – you’re on a good path! xo


Thank you for sharing! This gives me a lot of hope. Considering the treatment is still at this time only stable BGs, A1C < 7 and normal cholesterol and blood pressure, I agree I’m likely okay on the elliptical. I do heave a cotton wool, which suggests more advanced retinopathy (his words) in the one eye, but that didn’t change the treatment goals.

I have a MTB, so I’m going to check out trainers and for now keep up w my elliptical.


Cool, that would save space too, vs a standalone exercise bike, as I already have to store my bike in my tiny 1 bedroom apartment!


Thanks for the information and offer of code! I’ll look into all of these options and reach out if I decide to go the peloton route:) love this supportive community:)


As is often the case, I’m late to this discussion, but will share my experiences … although I’m no expert and am feeling my way down this path.

Background: Age: 73. T1D: 50+ years. First eye problem and treatment: 30-35 years ago had “carpet bombing” of one retina to cut down bleeding. Like military carpet banning, lots of collateral damage … but that type of laser treatment is NOT what they would use today.

30-35 years of “no change” annual retinology exams, Hooray!

Almost exactly one year ago, I wake up to a very “speckly” field of view in my good eye … with no apparent strenuous activity preceding it.
However, there is now a drug named Eylea that works to stop those tiny blood vessels from forming. And, there are two more drugs, I think, that should get FDA approval this year that are supposed to be better than Eylea. I got about 6 monthly Eylea treatments that are now being stretched out to a 3 month interval as “maintenance”.

My exercise: I take the dog on 2-3 walks per day totaling 5-8 miles. The place that I live has a fitness center that I visit 3-5 times per week. They have 7 “resistance” machines that target various arm, leg, back, and core muscles … but nothing that approaches “high stress”. I do 3 sets of 12 movements on each machine. They also have stationary bike, elliptical, and the equivalent of a seated bike … one of which I will use for 20-30 minutes if I won’t be walking the dog. Plus a few balance exercises because I’m old and don’t need to fall …

I’m no expert … but that is the compromise that I have made to stay as fit as possible without doing stuff that is high stress or high impact. I do plan to continue to cross-country ski. I have given up scuba diving. And I am working hard to give up things like home plumbing projects and working on cars because of the stress associated with “significant” wrench work.

I hope that each of you has MANY years of stable retina exams … particularly because every year that you can delay treatment means that there will be better treatment options if you DO need help.



Thank you for sharing your experience, John. This gives me a lot of hope! I’ve been better with my blood sugars than ever before, since getting my diagnosis of retinopathy/cotton wool, and I’m feeling comfortable with using the elliptical. Thankful for this amazing community!


I have been a T1D for the last 49 years. I have had my eyes regularly checked and show no signs of Diabetic Retinopathy. I attribute that success on a regular running routine that I started while in the Air Force. For the last 5 years I have been able to keep my A1C in the 5.5 area. Before my CGM I had an A1C above 6 but below 6.3.

1 Like