Exercise can improve your health. It can:
- Protect against heart disease
- Help control weight
- Be enjoyable!
First two general points:
- Different types of exercise in different people can cause different effects on their blood glucose. So you may need to experiment a little to find out what suits you.
- Remember exercise is not just sport - it can be any activity such as gardening, house cleaning or shopping.
Low blood glucose (Hypoglycaemia): Exercise increases the speed that your body uses glucose because it is an energy source for muscles. Also, if you inject insulin into your leg or arm and then exercise using that limb, this can increase the blood flow and so the insulin may be absorbed more rapidly.
High blood glucose (Hyperglycaemia): If there is a shortage of insulin when you exercise, glucose cannot enter the muscle cells and the blood glucose level increases. Various stress hormones are also released during exercise and these can cause a release of glucose from stores in the body.
So what should you do?
EXERCISE - THE GENERAL RULES
1. Plan ahead:
- If you can plan your exercise, this means you can choose whether to reduce your insulin or eat more carbohydrate. If you are exercising to lose weight, it would be best to reduce your insulin dose (rather than eating more calories).
- If you do unplanned exercise, you may need to have extra carbohydrate.
- This will help you to make any necessary adjustments.
- Remember that exercise can increase your blood glucose, particularly if your diabetes is generally poorly controlled.
- Check for ketones and if these are present, postpone the exercise until the blood glucose is below 13 mmol/l.
- Consider injecting an extra dose of fast acting insulin.
- Many people have symptoms of a rapid heart rate or feeling hot and sweaty when hypo. You may also feel these during normal exercise, so the situation can be unclear.
- For example, this could be dextrose tablets, a glucose drink or jelly babies.
- This could be a friend or the person leading the exercise class.
8. Keep well hydrated:
- This is important for anyone doing high intensity exercise, to replace lost fluid. You could also choose a fluid that provides some carbohydrate, such as diluted glucose drinks or squash.
- If you can avoid large swings in your blood glucose during exercise, both very high and very low levels, this will improve your physical performance.
- So for example, try to avoid having a large glucose drink immediately before exercise. Instead, take small sips regularly throughout the exercise. Or take regular jelly babies - they work just as well!
Ultimately you will need to experiment a little. Just remember these general rules and see what works for you.
For advice on adjusting your insulin during exercise, go to:
'Tricky-situations - Exercise: Adjusting your insulin'
Click here to go back to 'Tricky situations'.
But remember there is more information in the 'Quiz'. Come on, you know you want to try it!