Diabetes UK reminds us that there is no one type of exercise that’s best. The best exercise for people with type 1 diabetes is the one that works for you.
The benefits of exercise with type 1 diabetes
The American Diabetes Association states that adults with type 1 diabetes should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week.
Exercise is important for everyone. The benefits of exercise for people with diabetes cannot be overstated, however.
- weight control.
- lowering blood pressure.
- reducing harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- raising healthy HDL cholesterol.
- strengthening muscles and bones.
- reducing anxiety and improving your general well-being.
- lowering blood glucose levels and your A1c.
- increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin which countering insulin resistance.
- lowering your risk of heart disease.
What type of exercise is best for people with diabetes?
Everyone agrees, there is no best type of exercise. The best exercise is the one that you do on a regular basis and can be more than one form.
Managing your blood sugar levels can vary depending on both the type of exercise and the time of day that you are exercising.
Aerobic activities like running or cycling can cause your blood sugars to drop, so you may want to add food before you begin. For those who are doing anaerobic activities like weight-lifting, you may see your blood glucose levels spike. If you are playing team sports or activities that require a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activities, you may become frustrated as your blood sugar levels bounce all over the place.
With careful planning, you can avoid some of the blood glucose issues for people with diabetes who want to exercise.
How to get started
If you are just beginning to exercise, starting a new routine, or returning to exercise after your diabetes diagnosis, the first step is always to make sure that you have checked in with your doctor or diabetes care team.
Next, make a plan for when you will exercise and how you will mange your blood glucose levels before, during, and after.
Tips to exercise with diabetes
While there are many benefits from exercise, when you have type 1 diabetes, there are also a lot of challenges. If you are well prepared, however, the benefits outweigh the challenges!
Here are a few things that can help…
- Remember that the same exercise at different times of the day has to be handled in different ways. For example, if you go for a jog first thing in the morning, you may not have to be as concerned about the same drop in blood sugars as you see when you go out in the evening.
- Consider the temperature when you are exercising. It can impact your insulin absorption.
- Consider dropping your basal rates by even a small bit up to two hours BEFORE exercise.
- Eat within 15 minutes of exercising.
- Always check your blood sugar level before you begin to exercise. Make sure that your blood glucose levels are not too low or too high before you start.
- If you are doing an activity that required various levels of intensity, try using various temporary basal rates throughout the activity.
- Keep an exercise diary. This will help you to learn how the exercise impacts your blood sugars and how you can better manage them going forward.
Things to remember when exercising with type 1 diabetes
Here are some great tips to help you from Healthline.
- Always check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine.
- Consider reducing the amount of bolus or basal insulin that you take before, during, or after exercise.
- Increase the number of carbohydrates that you eat before, during, or after exercise.
- Try adding sprints or high-intensity intervals into your aerobic workouts.
- Complete resistance activities before your aerobic workouts.
- Adjust the timing, intensity, or duration of your workouts.
- Consider working out with someone who knows that you have diabetes and can recognize the signs of hypoglycemia.
- Wear a medical ID bracelet.
- If you feel sick, confused, or shaky, stop and check your blood sugar levels.
- Remember that the effects of exercise don’t stop when the physical activity or exercise is over. Delayed onset hypoglycemia can occur, dropping your blood sugar up to 15 hours after exercise.
Exercise is an important tool to help you manage your diabetes. It benefits both your physical and emotional health, but like everything else with diabetes, it must be done with care and caution. If you plan and prepare, you can fully enjoy all of the benefits.