It’s far too easy to come up with excuses not to exercise. Don’t let type 1 diabetes (T1D) be one of them.
Exercising with T1D can make managing blood sugar more challenging than it already is. But that doesn’t have to stop you from working out and keeping fit. The following 10 considerations for aerobic exercise and T1D are designed to help you stay strong and healthy while working up a sweat.
- Your risk for hypoglycemia can be significantly reduced by avoiding too much insulin on board during and after exercise.
- Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can give you critical information to help preemptively minimize blood-sugar highs and lows. If you don’t use a CGM, regular blood-sugar testing is key.
- Have a plan for insulin, blood sugar and nutrition at each stage of your workout.
- Aerobic exercise will cause your blood sugar to drop during and after activity, so reducing your basal insulin and/or adding carbs will likely be necessary to avoid hypoglycemia.
- Remember that changes in basal insulin delivery by pump can take up to an hour to have an effect. Exercise itself can cause basal insulin absorption rates to rise.
- Eating carbohydrates will provide fuel during exercise and help keep blood sugar in a safe range.
- Low insulin levels combined with eating after exercise can lead to high blood sugar.
- After exercise, your muscles and liver glycogen levels will need to be replenished with carbohydrates. However, insulin sensitivity is elevated for about 24 hours post-activity, so you may need to lower your insulin levels—particularly overnight.
- Don’t start exercising if you are hypoglycemic or have ketones in your blood and urine.
- Aerobic exercise has tremendous health benefits and diabetes needn’t stop you from participating. Go for it!
These guidelines were developed from the report “Exercise management in type 1 diabetes: a consensus statement,” published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. The team responsible for the report includes several experts involved in the JDRF PEAK (Performance in Exercise and Knowledge) program.
JDRF PEAK’s one-day events offer information to help manage physical activity and T1D. Learn more and find a JDRF PEAK event near you.
The PEAK patient program is supported by Novo Nordisk.