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Exercise and Diabetes: Tips for Establishing Healthy Routines

The health benefits of exercise are well known and established; exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, improves cardiovascular function, detoxifies the body, and improves mood and sleep.  For those with diabetes, exercise may require frequent adjustments to their management regimen – but these adjustments have the added benefits of improvements in blood glucose control, reduced nighttime hypoglycemia [1], and weight loss.

exercise and diabetes

Establishing a regular exercise routine takes planning, motivation, and commitment. For those with diabetes, a few extra simple steps are needed to ensure the maximum benefit from exercise. The following are tips for establishing healthy exercise routines:

1)    Food and Nourishment Planning – Generally speaking, engaging in exercise will lower your blood glucose, since the body’s demand for “fuel” (blood glucose) increases.  For this reason, managing glucose levels during exercise can be challenging. Speak with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise and nutrition program, as every individual’s specific needs and concerns can differ. Your physician may advise that before you begin exercising, check your blood glucose level – if you are low, you may need to eat a carbohydrate snack. If your glucose level is high, you may need to delay exercising to avoid ketoacidosis [2].

2)    Consider the Type of Exercise – Choose types of exercise that fit your personality and lifestyle. Whatever you choose, if the exercise will be prolonged (more than an hour) or very high intensity, be prepared to manage your blood glucose by having carbohydrate snacks on hand to prevent hypoglycemia. You will need to match your blood glucose management needs to the type and duration of exercise. While high intensity exercise increases the demands on the body, less-strenuous exercise may not require any diet or blood glucose management adjustments.

3)    Planning Insulin Needs – For those who are insulin-dependent, regular exercise may increase insulin sensitivity [2]. Those who manage their diabetes with insulin injections or an insulin pump may need to lower the insulin dose during the period of exercise.    in today’s market come with a number of features that make exercising easier, including the ability to have multiple “profiles” in place to accommodate different activities. For those who exercise, a profile can be created to match the insulin delivery needs for the activity.

4)   Keep it fun! – In order to maintain a regular exercise program, the fun factor is very important! When workouts become boring, it’s easy to find a reason not to exercise. Vary your routine, making choices that are important to you. If you like to socialize while exercising, consider joining a local sports or fitness group. If you enjoy moving to music, sign up for a fun dance class or Zumba. For more relaxing and meditative exercising, check out yoga. If four walls make you feel confined, exercise outdoors and reap the benefits of fresh air and nature. Boring workouts lead to burnout, so vary your routines to keep the activities challenging and enjoyable.

5)   Post-exercise care – The effects after exercise can vary from person to person. Depending upon the intensity and duration of exercise, you may be more sensitive to insulin for hours or even into the next day after exercise, so pay attention to your body and blood glucose levels to learn how your body responds to exercise [2]. For some, exercising every day may even require an overall reduction in the total daily insulin needs.

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve and maintain your health. Exercise is an investment in your well-being, and just requires a little bit of planning to ensure the optimal blood glucose managements. For those who are insulin-dependent, your insulin needs may change in response to lifestyle changes such as weight gain or loss, and starting or stopping exercise, so consult your health­care provider for help with making adjustments to your insulin requirements.

[1]http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/nutrition-exercise/exercise/exercising-with-an-insulin-pump/ , Accessed July 9, 2015
[2] http://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type1/treatment-of-type-1-diabetes/medications-and-therapies/type-1-insulin-pump-therapy/how-to-use-your-pump/exercise-pump-therapy/, Accessed July 9. 2015

Becky Wilcox is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about beauty, fashion, technology and more.  She writes for Life with Lisa as well as several other blogs and websites.  Check back soon for more from Becky.