Breaking a sweat with diabetes

Breaking a sweat with diabetes

Beginning a workout regimen can be challenging for anyone. However, it can be even more difficult for those with type 1 diabetes.

“Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas does not produce insulin, due to pancreatic beta cell destruction,” explains Jessica Schrage, a dietitian and diabetes educator at Aurora Health Care. “This type of diabetes used to be called juvenile onset but it can start at any age. In fact, half of new type 1 diabetes diagnoses are among adults.”

As you work out, your muscles use up glucose and cause your blood sugar levels to go down, Schrage explains. To complicate matters, post-workout symptoms might mirror hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, including sweating and increased heart rate. “If insulin is not adjusted for exercise, there is a higher risk of hypoglycemia. There can be immediate and delayed hypoglycemia, as our bodies may respond to exercise up to 24 hours later,” she adds. “Planning can be difficult and highly individualized.”

Despite the challenge, Schrage encourages any kind of physical activity. “Our bodies are meant to move. Plus, the benefits seem endless, including improving time in range for those with type 1 diabetes,” she says.

Schrage and fellow diabetes educator June Maile recommend these tips to work out safely with type 1 diabetes:

  • Monitor your blood sugar before starting exercise. You don’t want it too high or too low.
  • If wearing an insulin pump, reduce the basal insulin rate one to two hours before aerobic exercise and set it to activity mode 30 minutes to an hour before working out.
  • Always carry fast-acting sugar in case blood sugar levels drop more than expected or your workout is longer than expected.
  • Adjust insulin based on the type and duration of exercise. Strength or interval training will likely need different adjusting as there often isn’t a reduction in blood sugars.
  • Avoid exercise if blood sugar is greater than 270.

“Always consider safety first. If you have questions about how to best manage exercising with diabetes, meet with your endocrinologist or a certified diabetes care and education specialist,” Schrage advises.

Curious about your risk for diabetes? Click here for a free assessment.

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Sammy Kalski