Peripheral Neuropathy and Fitness

It is hard for me to do hardly any type of exercise due to my peripheral neuropathy. I’m going to start swimming soon, but am looking for other things to do besides swimming. Walking/running is out of the question because half the time my one foot drags. Makes me trip and hard to walk at times. I’ve heard that a bicycle is good but wondering if I should go stationary bicycle or regular bicycle?


Have you considered horseback riding? My friend said it has helped her balance and works muscles all over her body.

Maybe start with a stationary bike and if you feel confident with that then try a regular bicycle. I don’t have neuropathy in my feet but was wondering if you would have trouble keeping your feet on the pedals. There are so many bikes out there now there must be some design that you could ride safely.

Good luck,

Horseback riding sounds like a good idea. I love to go horseback riding though I would have to find a local ranch that I could go to.

Regular bike riding might be hard because I know when I’m driving feeling the petal on my right side is hard at times. That’s why if I’m with my mom she does the driving. My husband can’t drive yet. October he’s getting his license back. That will mean no more driving him to work. It gets annoying.


I’d like to learn horseback riding but I have a fear of horses. Sounds like such good exercise though. I should get over it and give it a go.

i’m also starting swimming for the same reason- have you started yet and hows it going?

Would an elliptical work? The pedals sort of float me along but I’m not sure if your weight would hold the dragging foot where it’s supposed to be or not? It’s kind of fun w/ disco music b/c of the bouncy “ride”? I like biking a lot too. Those stationary bikes are pretty comfy and have strap thingies.

I actually believe that proper exercise is important for treating neuropathy. Neuropathy by some measure is a problem with circulation and exercise improves your circulation.

I have neuropathy and have no feeling in either leg up to my knees. I have drop foot in both feet – neither foot will bend at the ankles. I use a walker because of falling so much. Like you, I don’t pick up my feet and literally trip over them. I gave up driving in 2005 because I can’t tell where the gas or break pedals are in the car came very close to crashing into another car in a parking lot when I couldn’t find the breaks with my feet. I am going to disagree with you about the walking though. It is harder to do than for someone without neuropathy, but it is not impossible. Like BSC said, it is important to exercise with neuropathy and you need to keep those legs moving.

I use my treadmill to walk on. I take precautions to use it. The little key thingee that shuts the treadmill off if you fall is supposed to be clipped onto your clothes. I have a big safety pin on mine and actually pin it to my shorts so if I fall, it won’t come loose (had that happen once before I started pinning it). I can’t go fast and only go 1.8 MPH, but it helps get my legs moving. When I get on the treadmill, I walk for a little bit before bumping it up to 1.4, walk some more then bump it to 1.6 and finally 1.8 – I go up slow to give my feet a chance to get used to the pace. And yes, I hold on tight the whole time I am on it and I keep my one hand near that off button. Walking on the treadmill is easier for me than walking outside because I don’t have to navigate the walker and the treadmill is flat so I don’t have to worry about being thrown off balance when I step on an uneven surface.

I’ll second acidrock’s suggestion on an elliptical or cross trainer. You’ll want to try out a few and find one that works for you. My wife and I went with a Cybex ArcTrainer -she has arthritis in her knees and a history of neuromas and other non-diabetic problems with her feet and the stride on the Cybex doesn’t stress the knee as much as some other machines.

With a cross trainer your feet stay on the pedals all of the time so the foot dragging shouldn’t be a problem. The other alternative, if it’s painful for you to put weight on your feet, would be to look at a recumbent stationary bike.

Also - see if you can get your Dr. to give you an Rx for a machine, your insurance probably won’t cover it (but always worth checking) but you can deduct it from your taxable income if you’re in the US and itemizing your deductions.

I’d love to swim more, but never make the time to go to a pool. Having a work out machine in the house makes it much easier, especially if driving is a concern.

I like biking. I got a bike with an indoor trainer. That way I can do both inside and outside riding. I had a stationery bike and a regular bike but they were taking up too much space. I included some images of my setup.
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Here’s one that no one else has recommended - a rowing machine. It is excellent exercise - and you’re sitting the whole time with your feet strapped in so it should be fine with peripheral neuropathy. You set your own pace - you can burn over 1000 calories per hour if you push yourself, or whatever level you choose. It is full-body exercise - back, arms and legs, and is low-impact.

When weather is lousy (like all winter) I row instead of running and I highly recommend it. It is monotonous, but perfect to do with an ipod since you can row with the rhythm and get lost in the music.

Most health clubs have at least one, and few people use them so they tend to be available without a long wait.

You want to use one of the good ones like are found at health clubs (a Concept 2 or equivalent). The cheap ones are really terrible in comparison and unlikely to keep you interested. If you find you like the one at the healthclub and want one for home use, you can buy a new one (about the same cost as a treadmill) or do what I did and look for a used Concept 2 on craigslist or at a yardsale. The older models (which work just as well as the newer ones) can sometimes be found very cheaply.

I also have severe neuropathy and have a hard time getting exercise. Walking gave me calluses and blisters the podiatrist had a fit about. I was doing well on a stationary bike, but getting bored. Tried my old bicycle and got 5 feet before I fell off it. That was a shock! Bought a 3 wheel bike, thinking that would be just the ticket, but it’s hard to ride, even for regular people. I think I could ride, once I was on the horse it might be okay, but one could knock me over on the ground, and it would be hard to get off in a hurry or lead the horse back to the barn if we got in trouble. Have some of you tried swimming? Does that work okay?