For a person with type 1 diabetes, physical activity plays a vital part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise helps prevent a variety of health problems, safeguards your mental health, and improves your mood, helping you live a longer, happier life. For individuals with type 1 diabetes, exercise can also help decrease daily insulin needs and can help prevent diabetes-related health complications.
However, many people with type 1 diabetes do no exercise regularly due to a fear of hypoglycemia. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, which means your body doesn’t need as much insulin to process carbohydrates. In addition, the body needs fuel to support the increased activity, so it goes through glucose stores, which can result in blood sugar lows. The risk of hypoglycemia can be present up to 24 hours after exercising.
Hypoglycemia during and after exercise is certainly a concern, but the risks of being physically inactive pose a bigger risk to a person’s long term health. As countless elite athletes, weekend warriors and active people with type 1 diabetes can attest, it is definitely possible to manage exercise-related hypoglycemia. In other words, if you have type 1 diabetes and are thinking of starting an exercise program, there’s no better time to start than now! Here are 5 tips for helping beginners get off that couch and onto the start of a healthy, active lifestyle:
Talk to your doctor
It is extremely important to consult your medical care provider and have a medical checkup before starting an exercise program. If you have certain T1D complications, your doctor may suggest certain forms of exercise to try or avoid.
Know the basics of exercising with type 1 diabetes
Before you take a single step, find out how you need to prepare for exercise. Talk with your doctor about adjusting your insulin needs before, during, and after exercise. Plan your pre- and post-exercise snacks. Always remember that insulin sensitivity can last up to 24 hours. Remember that different kinds of exercise — anaerobic exercise such as weight training versus aerobic exercise such as swimming or biking — will affect your blood sugars differently. To help you get started, you can read Dr. Tariq Ahmad’s tips on managing diabetes and exercise.
Find an activity that you love
If the thought of lifting weights or running or exercise class makes you want to go back to bed, don’t do it. Instead of signing up for an exercise class, sign up for a dance class. Hike or bike a nature trail. Adopt that dog you fell in love with at the animal rescue fair, and walk him every evening after dinner. Or volunteer to build houses! You’ll be more likely to stick to an activity if you love it. If you can, tackle a new activity with a friend. Having a “partner in crime” will help keep you motivated and accountable.
Don’t expect to run a marathon, or even 5k, in a month! Your heart, joints, and muscles need to get used to the increased activity level. If you want to start running, c25k is a great program for getting beginners off the couch and running a 5k in 9 weeks. If you can’t even imagine taking a single step, focus on making small changes. For example, parking your car farther away from the entrance to a building, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can make a difference.
Every person’s body responds differently to exercise, so it’s important to discover how exercise affects yours. In the beginning, try to exercise at the same time of day and for the same length of time. Check your blood sugar before and after exercising to see how it is affected. Choose the same pre- and post-exercise snacks to see how they affect your blood sugar. Take lots of notes!
Whether you’re a beginner or regular exerciser, don’t forget to suit up and gear up with the right equipment at Sports Basement. They have locations all over the Bay Area and some of the best prices around. Their Basementeer loyalty program gives you 10% off all your purchases, and it’s free to join. In addition, 10% of profits from your purchase will be donated to Carb DM! Just select Carb DM from the list of nonprofits and add it to your Basementeer account.