If you have diabetes and you have decided to start, restart or intensify an exercise regimen, congratulations! Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can improve sensitivity to insulin, help build muscle and reduce excess fat and help keep your blood sugar levels under control. Exercise is actually a crucial component of managing your diabetes, but there are a few precautions you should take before getting started.
Get your doctor’s okay.
Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine, whether you want to increase the time and/or intensity of your workout, or if you are starting a new program after being inactive. If you have heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, or diabetic neuropathy, your doctor might recommend you take an exercise tolerance (or treadmill) test to determine how your heart and blood pressure perform during exercise. It’s important to follow his or her advice about what is a safe level of blood sugar for you before, during and after exercise. Your doctor can also recommend some types of exercise that are best for you, as well as the duration and intensity of your workouts.
To exercise safely, you need to track your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity.
Check your blood sugar before exercise.
Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding what is a safe level of blood sugar for you before starting exercise. Depending on the level of blood sugar in your system, if it is too low you may need to eat a small snack containing 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, such as a fruit juice, fruit, crackers or glucose tablets before your workout. Or, if your blood sugar is too high you should delay exercise until it is at a safe level.
Check your blood sugar during exercise.
Low blood sugar is sometimes a concern, especially if you plan to exercise longer than 30 minutes. Check your blood sugar every 30 minutes so you know whether your level is stable, rising or falling, to be sure it is safe to continue exercising. If it is too low, eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrates, then recheck your blood sugar after 15 minutes. If it is still low, have another 15 grams of carbs and check again. Don’t continue your workout until your blood sugar is at a safe level.
Check your blood sugar after exercise.
Check your blood sugar immediately after exercising and again several times during the next few hours. When you exercise, your body draws on reserve sugar that is stored in your muscles and liver. The more strenuous the exercise the longer your blood sugar is affected. Having a snack with slower-acting carbohydrates, such as a granola bar or trail mix can help prevent a dangerous drop in blood sugar after your workout.
Low blood sugar can occur during your workout or as much as four to eight hours after physical activity.
Exercise can be a crucial factor in helping to control your diabetes, manage your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and improve your overall level of fitness and wellbeing. However, monitoring your blood sugar before, during and after exercise is just as important to your health as the exercise itself. Keeping a close check on your blood sugar is the most effective way to make sure that your workout is healthy and safe.
Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding exercising with diabetes. For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.