Living with type 1 diabetes means you need to pay extra attention to your health, and do your part to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce any long-term complications of diabetes. Let’s be honest here, it isn’t easy. Between doctor’s appointments, medications and supplies, and counting carbs, managing type 1 diabetes is like having another full-time job that you can’t clock out from. Exercise plays an important role in managing stable blood sugar levels, but it’s a balancing act of getting the right amount of exercise and overdoing it, causing low blood sugars. Here are some tips to tackle working out as a type 1 diabetic.
No matter what exercise you plan to do, always come prepared for blood sugar swings before, during, and after a workout. Probably the most convenient way to treat low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) during exercise is to carry fast-acting glucose tablets. These are small and easy to carry. Juice is another quick-acting option if you prefer. Also carry some snacks that have a good balance of carbohydrates and protein to keep your blood sugars stable.
Wear a CGM
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be one of the best modern inventions to help manage diabetes. A CGM is a wearable device that monitors your blood sugars and patterns in real-time. With the ability to alert you when your blood sugar is low, a CGM is a game changer for working out. If you don’t have a CGM, checking your blood sugars before and during a workout will help you know where your blood sugars are trending and if you need to make any corrections.
Don’t overdo it
Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. They will be able to help you adjust any insulin rates that may be necessary and can give you tips on how to manage your diabetes during a workout. If just starting an exercise regimen, it can be easy to become overly excited and jump in head first. But this may come as a shock to your diabetes, especially if you had previously been less active. Start slow and you can build up your intensity as you start to understand how your diabetes and body reacts to your workouts. Doing too much too fast may cause your blood sugars to take a tremendous dip, putting you at risk for hypoglycemia. Similarly, too strenuous of exercise may have the opposite effect, causing your blood sugars to skyrocket. This is because when you do a high-intensity exercise, it increases your stress hormone levels, which raises your glucose levels. Moderate exercise is all you need to effectively manage blood sugar levels. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Exercise is a vital part of managing your type 1 diabetes, but it doesn’t mean you need to be an Olympic athlete. Finding the right time to exercise and type of workout you will enjoy will help you create healthy habits that stick. Maybe a brisk walk with a co-worker on a break, or cycling first thing in the morning, or an evening swim to help you relax. Exercise and type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to be scary; it just takes a little extra planning. Now get moving!