Most of you already know that I love to exercise. My day starts out at 4am, early yes, but it’s the only time that I get to myself during the day. As a stay at home dad of 4, I consider this a small sacrifice for my sanity as well as to benefit my bottom line as a type 1 diabetic, my health!
What makes exercise so important? Well I think we all know the answer to that question as there are so many benefits including better control of our overall blood sugars. There is a list of exercises you can do, but lets take a closer look at how you can exercise safely for better control!
Diabetes And Exercise:
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, diabetes and exercise should go hand in hand, at least when it comes to the management aspect of the disease. Not only can exercise can help you improve your blood sugar control, boost your overall fitness, it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, provide more stable blood sugar readings, and help lower blood pressure ~ all risk factors that we face.
While exercise is great for us and the benefits are well documented, as diabetics it also poses some unique challenges. To exercise safely, it’s crucial to track your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity. You’ll learn how your body responds to exercise, which can help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
High Blood Sugars?
This was one of the biggest hurdles for me when I was first diagnosed. My numbers would skyrocket after a workout or even during a gym session. The issue is that exercise triggers the body to release stress hormones, like adrenaline. Adrenaline tells the liver to release glucose, or cortisol which makes you more resistant to insulin, and since strenuous activity triggers an increase in these stress hormones, chances are (even temporarily) your blood sugars are often increased.
That being said different exercises affect us differently and we also know that we’re all very unique, and lets face it, type 1 diabetes effects everyone differently and no situations are ever the same. Our blood sugar response to exercise will also depend on our level of physical fitness and personal exertion. Generally speaking, 30-40 minutes of high intensity interval training will bring different results than an hour of running, doing the stair climber or even walking the dog so it will be important to closely monitor your blood sugars during exercise and see how these activity levels effect you.
Exercise And Low Blood Sugars:
I know, kind of defeats the purpose right? Thing is, exercise can also have a negative impact on our blood sugars in terms of a low blood sugar. It’s always important to be prepared in the event of an emergency. In the bag I carry with me to the gym, I have a bunch of different goodies that I carry in the event of a low blood sugar. Better to be safe than sorry. Things you should carry?
You should always have some source of sugar within arms reach.
- Keep a sugar packet, sugar cube, or a glucose tablet in your pocket for an emergency. I personally carry around a couple of honest kids organic juice packets and raw honey as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I also have my glucagon kit readily available in my bag.
- Bring a sandwich or similar snack (granola bar or protein bar). The effects of a sugar packet on your blood sugar may last only a few minutes, especially if you are really in the zone during an intense workout.
It is often hard to guess the amount of a snack you will need for a particular activity, but if you exercise within an hour after a meal (not something I recommend as you will probably have active insulin on board) you may not need an extra snack especially if the meal you ate is higher in protein and fat.
Also, if your just starting out and you are not physically fit, your blood sugar may drop more quickly than someone who is more advanced and has been working out for several years so it is vitally important to consistently test. Yes it can be embarrassing and inconvenient but its important to see how your body is responding.
It is also very useful to check your blood sugar to figure out what snack works best for you and more importantly, see how they effect your numbers. If your blood sugar is low (for example, below 100 mg/dL, or 5.5 mmol/L), you may need a larger snack than when your blood sugar is high. The type of snack may depend on the length of the activity.
- Snacks such as almond milk or organic juice are used for short-term (30 to 60 minutes) activities because they contain carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed. Almond or regular milk is better than juice because it has protein and while it will raise your blood sugar levels, it can do so without a huge spike.
- Also, snacks that include protein and fat along with carbohydrate are good for long-term activities as they will provide you with sustained energy without negatively impacting your blood sugars with quick spikes.
Extra water is also important, particularly during hot weather or exercise sessions where you really work up a good sweat. A general rule is to drink 8 ounces of fluid for every 30 minutes of vigorous activity but if your really sweating and losing water you may need to up that amount. Electrolytes are a fantastic option of doing so and you can read up more about them right here.
There’s no question that managing blood glucose during exercise can be a challenge, but it can be done, and done so in a fun and safe manner. I highly encourage everyone to exercise, even if its only 20 minutes a day. If your just starting out, have a chat with your doctor and set up a game plan. The benefits of exercise help with weight control, decreased risk of heart disease, improved mood, more stable blood sugar readings and so much more, so get out there and go have some fun even if you exercise at home!
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