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Safely Exercising With Diabetes

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What are the benefits of exercise for people with diabetes?

There are so many benefits of exercising, especially if you suffer from diabetes.

Exercising when you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight, help you reduce your risk of a heart attack and a stroke, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, and promote overall health. 

It’s important to remember that exercising alone will not be the only factor when it comes to improving your overall health.

Making sure you’re eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep will also massively contribute to living a healthy lifestyle.

How does exercise affect diabetes?

Whether you suffer from type 1 or type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can have similar positive effects on the body. 

In general, exercising can help the body increase insulin sensitivity, aid blood pressure levels, help to improve cholesterol levels and even help you lose weight.

However, if you suffer from diabetes, these benefits have more of a positive impact on your overall health. 

In addition, exercising can also help your mind. This is due to your body releasing endorphins (“happy hormones”) into your brain, and in turn, reducing stress levels and improve low mood.   

If you have type 2 diabetes, exercise can help improve your HbA1c (average blood glucose levels). If your HbA1c improves through doing regular exercise, then it could possibly help your body go into remission.

Does this effect vary based on the type of exercise? E.g. cardio and resistance training?

The main difference in exercise that effects diabetes is if you are negating in competitive sport.

When in a race, or team game, your blood sugars are affected by different hormones.

And by competing, it not only effects your blood sugars directly but also causes you to become nervous and stressed. The stress then releases a hormone that affects your blood sugar levels making them harder to control.

Research has shown that every individual reacts to exercise differently.

So, while your friend with type 1 diabetes may respond in one way, you may respond in another. 

This means that although guidelines and advice can be useful, you’re is yours and learning from yourself is the best way to make sure you are safe. 

Does exercise help to lower blood sugar?

Exercise can lower your blood sugar for 24 hours (sometimes more) after your workout. This in turn, makes your body more sensitive to insulin. 

This means that your muscle cells can more effectively use insulin and take up glucose during and after physical activity.

When your muscles contract during exercise, your cells will take up more glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not.

When is the best time of day for a person with diabetes to exercise?

Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes there is no specific time of day to exercise that would benefit you the most.

Making sure you have eaten something to ensure that you don’t experience low blood glucose levels during your workout is the most important thing to consider.

How should someone with diabetes eat before/after a workout?

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes exercise can cause your blood glucose levels to rise (hyperglycaemia) or drop (hypoglycaemia).

No matter your health status or fitness levels, best way to achieve your goals and get in the peak fitness is to watch your diet and fuel yourself for maximum performance.

And, ALWAYS, stay well hydrated. Increasing your fluid intake is especially important if you exercise and have high blood glucose levels.

Type 1

When you have type 1 diabetes, moderate exercise, like walking or cycling, can often cause a slow drop in blood glucose levels.

While exercises like running or football, may cause your blood glucose levels to rise. In order to avoid this, you will need to make sure that you are eating the right amount of carbs before, during and after exercise. This will depend on whether you are hyperglycaemic or hypoglycaemic.

Type 2 

If you have type 2 diabetes and are planning a long-duration (such as a low-intensity exercise like hiking), aim to consume whole foods such as bananas or other fruits, which contain natural sugars, and nuts.

Protein should be a big part of everyone’s diet. Protein contains an important nutrient for building muscle and maintaining muscle mass.

In order to aid your body to do this, reach for protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds to ensure you are replenishing your energy supplies. 

How long should a workout be for someone with diabetes?

There is no yes or no answer. When you have diabetes there is no limit for how long you should exercise for, but it is dependent on how much you can keep your diabetes and glucose levels under control. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes then you should start off with more low-intensity and shorter workouts.

When should someone with diabetes NOT exercise?

In short, there is no time that someone with diabetes should not exercise as it can do more good than bad. However, it is essential that you monitor your blood sugar levels throughout your workout and as soon as you feel ‘unwell’ or feel weaker than usual you should stop, take a rest and refuel. 

What are the warning signs for someone with diabetes to stop a workout?

During exercise, having low blood sugar is sometimes a concern. Longer workouts can be more of a concern than shorter ones, so it is advised to check your blood sugar every 30 minutes. 

You should stop exercising if; your blood sugar is 70 mg/dL or lower or if you begin to feel shaky, weak or confused.