Exercise impacts everyone differently. A minority of people with diabetes who exercise may find it unnecessary to make any insulin or dietary changes to accommodate their exercise regime, like the NPH user who does aerobics early in the morning before her breakfast or morning insulin. Most, however, will probably need to make some adjustments.
A few real-life examples from aerobics participants with diabetes show the adjustments they make to maintain good blood glucose control:
- For 50 minutes of intense aerobic dance, an NPH-user would decrease either her or his Humalog or NPH by 20 to 30 percent (depending on which insulin is active during exercise) and also consume an additional 15 gm. of carbohydrate for blood sugars that are less than 120 mg/dl.
- For an hour of aerobics, an insulin pump-user would decrease her or his pre-exercise meal bolus by 25 to 50 percent, decrease her basal rate by 50 to 75 percent while exercising (depending on the intensity of the class), and eat a rapid-acting carbohydrate, like a banana.
- An Ultralente user participates in one hour of high-intensity step aerobics. If her or his beginning blood sugar is 150 to 180 mg/dl, she does not take any extra insulin or eat a snack. If her or his blood sugar is below 150 mg/dl, she or he eats a small granola bar or a banana prior to exercising. If her or his blood sugar is above 250, she or he actually takes one unit of Humalog before exercising.
Regular aerobics will increase your insulin sensitivity and may result in a diminished need for diabetes medications. It also has the added benefit of improving your blood sugar control.
Editor’s Note: The above examples are for illustration only. Please consult your advisors and check your blood sugar often when considering a change to your usual routine.