If you are one of the many Americans with diabetes choosing to exercise, good for you! This can benefit you in many ways including reducing your hemoglobin A1c (an indicator that gives insight to blood sugar levels over a three month period), increase insulin sensitivity, and decrease risk for heart disease. Here are some recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine for diabetics to keep in mind while exercising.
Check your blood sugar before exercise. If blood sugar is above 250 mg/dL, do not exercise until the level comes below 250 mg/dL. If blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL, have a snack containing 10 to 20 grams of carbohydrate.
Keep an exercise log. On this log, record your pre-exercise blood sugar level, the time of day, medication/insulin administered, type of exercise, duration of exercise, and intensity level. Over time, this will help you to gain a better understanding of how certain types of exercise impact your blood sugar level.
Plan ahead. Knowing what type of exercise and how much you will do can help you to adjust any medications and insulin. Also, carry a 10 to 15 gram carbohydrate snack with you to eat/drink approximately every 30 minutes.
Adjust insulin dosages. Short- or rapid-acting insulin can be reduced by 50% to avoid hypoglycemic episodes. Be sure to get your doctor’s approval for this.
Exercise with a friend. This is especially important when beginning an exercise routine until blood sugar response is better known.
Wear a diabetic identification tag. Hopefully this would never be needed, but you wouldn’t drive a car without insurance, so don’t exercise without your tag! If something were to happen, this would help you to receive better care by anyone attending to your needs.
Wear comfortable shoes appropriate for activity. This helps to prevent injury.
Check your feet! Always do this whether you exercise or not. However, it is probably even more pertinent after exercise. You need to look for sores or any irritated spots and show them to your doctor if they occur.
American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, 5th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins: 2006.