Exercise for people with diabetes is crucial for good glycemic control. Type1s can reduce their insulin doses and type 2s can reduce the risk of numerous complications. But exercise for people with diabetes also requires special attention because it has special risks.
The following list of recommendations should help you avoid any unnecessary risk when it comes to all forms of exercise – from dancing to jogging.
- All persons taking medications for their diabetes should always keep on hand: a fast-acting carbohydrate while exercising; some current form of identification; quarters, in case there is a need to make a phone call
- Blood glucose monitoring, both before and after exercise, will give you feedback about how the exercise is affecting your blood glucose levels. Understanding this relationship is the key to safe exercising.
- Exercise of long duration or intensity should be accompanied with additional intake of carbohydrates to replenish used glycogen.
- If you don’t reduce your insulin dose, have a pre-exercise snack or drink consisting of 10-15 grams of carbohydrate for every 30 minutes of physical activity.
- If you are prone to low blood glucose episodes, check with your doctor about adjusting your pre-exercise insulin dose.
- Vigorous exercise should be avoided if the environment is extremely hot, humid, smoggy or cold. Often feelings of being too hot or too cold can be confused with signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.
- To reduce the likelihood of injury, persons with diabetes should have proper equipment and properly fitting exercise shoes.
- All workouts should include warm-up and cool-down sessions. In addition, stretching exercises are recommended to enhance flexibility and prevent injury.
- Be aware that certain medications can mask symptoms of hypoglycemia.
- Keep plenty of water handy. In other words, maintain hydration while exercising. For longer events (more than 40 minutes) make sure to start drinking liquids well before you feel thirsty.
- You should stop exercising if you feel faint or experience pain or a pronounced shortness of breath.
The above guidelines (1-11) are from the International Diabetic Athletes Association newsletter. The IDAA is a non-profit organization dedicated to physical fitness for individuals with diabetes. For more information, call (800) 898-4322.