The benefits and risks of exercising with diabetes.
There are many facets to living well with diabetes. One of the most important is regular exercise, as it helps control high blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Along with a eating a healthy diet and taking prescribed medications, regular exercise gives you the highest likelihood of thriving despite diabetes.
However, exercising with diabetes isn’t without its challenges. A diabetic’s body responds differently to exercise than a healthy body. With that in mind, what does a diabetic need to know about exercise?
Benefits of Exercise
First off, keep in mind that for those with type 2 diabetes, exercise improves the way your body uses insulin to control blood sugar. It also helps manage weight, increases bone strength and density, lowers blood pressure, increases energy level, protects against heart disease, improves muscle strength, and reduces stress. Exercise also lowers the risk of developing other medical conditions associated with diabetes.
With such a long list of benefits, it’s obvious diabetics need exercise (along with the everyone else). For the greatest benefit, 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is recommended.
No matter if you have diabetes or not, exercise affects blood sugar levels. As each person’s blood sugar responds differently to exercise, it’s important for diabetics to track blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise to prevent dangerous fluctuations.
If you’ve got diabetes, remember the following tips when exercising:
- Before beginning an exercise routine, speak with your doctor. Depending on your overall health, you may benefit from a test or two to see how exercise affects your heart.
- Record the effects different types of exercise have on your blood sugar. This is especially important if you’re out of shape or if you’re trying a new form of exercise or changing the intensity of your workouts.
- Add carbs to your diet the day you exercise and adjust your insulin accordingly. Keep a small carb-filled snack or fruit drink nearby for an instant boost in case your blood sugar drops.
- To lower your risk of low blood sugar, stay on a regular schedule when it comes to exercise, meals, and medications.
- Be aware that strenuous exercise may cause the production of hormones that work against insulin, causing a rise in blood sugar. You may need to adjust your insulin, diabetes medications, or calorie intake. Speak with your physician if you’re unsure how to adjust your medications.
- When you take your insulin affects when you should exercise. Use caution when exercising at the point the medication is most effective.
- It may be prudent to have an exercise partner or someone nearby who knows of your condition and what steps to take if your blood sugar drops.
- In addition, wear a medical ID tag or bracelet or carry an ID card identifying you as a diabetic.
- To make sure it’s safe to exercise, test your blood sugar levels 30 minutes before exercising and then immediately prior to exercising to see if your levels remain stable or if they fall or rise during exercise.
- Test your blood sugar levels during and after exercising.
How should you react when you find out what your blood sugar levels are? If your blood sugar is lower than 100mg/dL, it may be unsafe to exercise. Eat some carbs and retest your levels before working out.
Blood sugar measuring between 100 and 250 mg/dL is a safe zone prior to exercise.
Take precaution if your blood sugar is 250 mg/dL or greater. Test your urine for ketones (substances created when fat is broken down by your body to be used as energy). A high level of ketones shows a low level of insulin. Exercising in this condition presents a dangerous risk of ketoacidosis, which requires immediate medical attention.
Stop Exercising If…
Low blood sugar is a risk during exercise. Take precautions and if necessary, check your blood sugar every half hour. If your blood sugar drops to 70 mg/dL or lower, stop exercising immediately.
Also, sit out if you feel nervous, shaky, or confused. Eat a snack or drink some fruit juice to raise your glucose levels and regain feelings of normalcy. Then recheck your levels every 15 minutes until it’s safe to resume activity.
While exercise is so important for diabetics, you can’t ignore the possible risks. It may be annoying to have to test your blood sugar so often, but the benefits of exercise are well worth it.
Want to Drop Your Meds?
Regular exercise has proven to help people with diabetes make solid strides toward a medication-free life.