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How to Safely Work Out with Diabetes

A diabetes diagnosis can impact every member of your family. But have you ever thought about the positive effects diabetes can have on the ones you love?

For example, one important part of effectively managing diabetes is staying physically active. When you find opportunities to include friends and family in your regular exercise routine, this presents you with an opportunity to manage your blood sugar while helping everybody stay healthy together—and have some fun!

Consider the following while enjoying fun and healthy activities with your family and friends. Plus we have also added helpful tips for keeping your glucose in check when starting any exercise routine.

Know Your Numbers Before You Work Out

You need to know your numbers before beginning your workout. Blood sugar levels could vary, so make sure you take your doctor’s recommendation on what fitness plan might be best for you and what your ideal blood sugar levels should be. Generally, if your glucose level is between 100 mg/dl and 250 mg/dl (5.5 mmol/L and 13.9 mmol/L) you are in the blood sugar workout happy place, so feel free to go ahead and get moving. But, if it is below 100 ( 5.5) you should eat a snack, like a granola bar or a cup of yogurt, to get your blood sugar level up to where it should be before you begin your activity.2 This will allow you to have fun without worrying about the effect it is having on your blood sugar.

Conversely if it is higher than 250 (13.9) you need to first check for ketones. There are a few different ways to do this, but in this case, testing your urine with ketone strips you can purchase from your pharmacy is probably the cheapest and easiest.3 If you find that ketones are present in your urine, you should contact your doctor to ask their advice before engaging in any additional activities like exercise.

Managing Blood Glucose While Working Out

If your blood sugar is stable and in range and you are planning to be active for two hours or less, you should not need to check your blood sugar during your workout. Just remember, because exercise causes rapid fluctuations in blood sugar, that every hour after the second hour of exercise you need to check your glucose levels.4

If you happen to experience low blood sugar (below 70 (3.9)) during a workout you should treat it by following the 15-15 rule.1 Basically, what you want to do is eat 15 grams of carbohydrates, wait 15 minutes, then check your sugar again. If your blood sugar level is not back up to 100 (5.5) or more, eat 15 more grams and repeat. Some things that contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates are5

  • 1/2 cup of fruit juice or regular (non-diet) soda
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
  • Jellybeans or hard candies—see the package to determine how many
  • Premeasured glucose tabs or gel

If you are doing an extended exercise like running a 5k, make sure to bring some glucose tablets in case your blood sugar drops. It is also a smart idea to wear a medical alert tag if you are running a race so staff will know how to help you if problems do arise.

If you do not like the idea of repeatedly checking your blood sugar, you can try a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that allows you to track your blood sugar without needing to prick your finger to see your blood sugar levels.6 A CGM is a sensor that sends a signal to a reader providing you with a continuous view of your blood sugar status, so you can focus more on having fun while keeping an eye on your glucose levels.

When adding regular exercise into your family’s daily life it is extremely important to know when to check your blood sugar so you can avoid both short and long-term health consequences. Keep in mind that a good workout can lower your blood sugar for up to 24 hours after you have worked out, so you should maintain your regular blood sugar monitoring routine in addition to checking with exercise as necessary.

And remember this: Being active is an essential part of managing your diabetes that also happens to have good effects for everyone who joins you.

Have you read the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes yet?

Download today for more ideas about how your family can live healthier lives every day!

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1 “Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia).” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/hypoglycemia. Accessed October 23, 2018
2 “Tips to Control Your Blood Sugar During a Workout.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diabetes/control-blood-sugar-workout#1. Accessed October 23, 2018
3 Maguire, Emily. “When and How Should You Measure Ketosis?” Emily Maguire: Low Carb Genesis, 5 Sept. 2017, lowcarbgenesis.com/blog/when-and-how-should-you-measure-ketosis/. Accessed October 23, 2018
4 “Tips to Control Your Blood Sugar During a Workout.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diabetes/control-blood-sugar-workout#1. Accessed October 23, 2018
5 “Treating Low Blood Glucose: Know the Signs and Steps to Take.” Accu-Chek, Roche Diabetes Care, www.accu-chek.com/management-tips/treating-low-blood-glucose-know-signs-.... Accessed October 23, 2018
6 “FDA Approves First Blood Sugar Monitor without Finger Prick.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 29 Sept. 2017, www.cbsnews.com/news/fda-approves-first-blood-sugar-monitor-without-fing.... Accessed October 23, 2018

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