Stick with Fitness: tips to stay in shape with diabetes

How does diabetes affect exercise?

Exercise has numerous benefits for all people with diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of heart disease. It can also promote better control of blood sugar and blood flow.

People with type 1 diabetes can also benefit from exercise. However, if you have this type of diabetes, you should closely monitor your blood sugar levels. This is because exercise can lead to hypoglycemia. If you have type 2 diabetes but are not taking these medications, there is a very low risk of low blood sugar levels with exercise.

Either way, exercise is beneficial as long as you take the proper precautions.

While you may not be motivated to exercise or worry about your blood sugar levels, do not give up. You can find an exercise program that works for you. Your doctor can help you choose appropriate activities and set blood sugar goals to make sure you exercise safely.

Considerations when exercising

If you have not exercised at any time and are planning to start something more aggressive than a walking program, talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you have a chronic complication or if you have had diabetes for more than 10 years.

Your doctor may recommend a stress test with exercises before starting an exercise program if you are over 40 years old. This will ensure that your heart is well enough so that you can exercise safely.

When you exercise and have diabetes, it is important to be prepared. You should always wear a medical alert bracelet or other identification that lets people know you have diabetes, especially if you are taking medications that can cause hypoglycemia. In this case, you should also have other items of caution on hand to help raise your blood sugar level if necessary. These items include:

  • Fast-acting carbohydrates such as gels or fruits.

  • glucose tablets

  • Sports drinks that contain sugar, such as Gatorade or Powerade.

While everyone should always drink plenty of fluids when they exercise, people with diabetes should be especially careful to get enough fluids. Dehydration during exercise can adversely affect blood sugar levels. Be careful to drink at least 8 ounces of water before, during and after your workout to stay hydrated.

Risks of exercise with diabetes.

When you exercise, your body begins to use blood sugar as a source of energy. Your body also becomes more sensitive to insulin in your system. This is beneficial in general.

However, these two effects can make your blood sugar go down to low levels if you are taking certain medications such as insulin or sulfonylureas. For this reason, it is important to monitor your blood sugar before and after exercising if you are taking these medications. Consult your doctor about the ideal levels of blood sugar before and after exercise.

Some people with diabetes may need to avoid strenuous exercise. This is true if you have some forms of diabetic retinopathy, eye disease, high blood pressure or problems with your feet. Intense exercise can also increase your risk of having a low blood sugar many hours after exercise.

People who take medications that put them at risk for low blood sugar should be careful to check their blood sugar levels for longer after intense exercise. Always talk to your doctor about the best approach considering your unique health concerns.

Outdoor exercise can also affect your body's response. For example, extreme fluctuations in temperature can affect your blood sugar levels.

What should you do if your blood sugar is too low or too high before you exercise? If blood sugar levels are high and you have type 1 diabetes, you can test ketones and avoid exercise if it is positive for ketones. If your blood sugar levels are low, you should eat something before you start exercising.

Talk to your doctor to create a plan that works for you.

Monitoring your blood sugar before exercise

You should monitor your blood sugar level about 30 minutes before exercising to make sure it is within a safe range. While your doctor can set individual goals with you, here are some general guidelines:

Less than 100 mg / dL (5.6 mmol / L)

If you are taking medications that increase insulin levels in the body, refrain from exercising until you have eaten a high carb snack. This includes fruit, half a turkey sandwich or crackers. You may want to check your blood sugar again before exercising to make sure it is in the right range.

Between 100 and 250 mg / dL (5.6 to 13.9 mmol / L)

This range of blood sugar is acceptable when you start exercising.

250 mg / dL (13.9 mmol / L) at 300 mg / dL (16.7 mmol / L)

This level of blood sugar can indicate the presence of ketosis, so be sure to check the ketones. If they are present, do not exercise until your blood sugar levels have decreased. This is usually only a problem for people with type 1 diabetes.

300 mg / dL (16.7 mmol / L) or greater

This level of hyperglycemia can progress rapidly to ketosis in people with type 1 diabetes. This can be made worse by exercise in people with type 1 diabetes who have insulin deficiency.

People with type 2 diabetes rarely develop such a profound insulin deficiency. In general, you do not need to postpone exercise because of a high blood glucose level, as long as you feel well and remember to stay hydrated.

Signs of low blood sugar while exercising

Recognizing hypoglycemia during exercise can be difficult. By nature, exercise puts pressure on your body that can mimic low blood sugar. You may also experience unique symptoms, such as unusual visual changes, when your blood sugar level drops.

Examples of symptoms of hypoglycemia induced by exercise in people with diabetes include:

  • irritability

  • sudden onset of fatigue

  • sweating excessively

  • tingling in your hands or tongue

  • trembling or trembling hands

If you experience these symptoms, analyze your blood sugar and rest for a moment. Eat or drink a fast-acting carbohydrate to help restore your blood sugar levels.

Recommended exercises for people with diabetes.

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends consulting with your doctor when determining the type of exercise that is best for you, given your general state of health. A good place to start is some kind of gentle aerobic exercise, which challenges the lungs and the heart to strengthen them. Some examples include walking, dancing, jogging or taking aerobic classes.

However, if your feet have been damaged by diabetic neuropathy, you may want to consider exercises that keep you away from your feet. This will prevent further injury or damage. These exercises include biking, rowing or swimming. Always wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes along with breathable socks to avoid irritation.

Finally, do not think you have to be a marathon runner. Instead, try starting with aerobic exercise in increments of 5 to 10 minutes. Then work up to approximately 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

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