Type 1, 2, Late Onset, Gestational – whatever the category or whatever age you are – exercise and healthy eating are key to successfully managing your blood glucose levels (BGLs).
Admittedly, my journey into exercise with type 1 diabetes was not easy and there is no magic formula for success. Trial and error with adjustment of insulin and food is needed and will vary depending how long and hard you exercise plus what time of day you do it.
As much as it may seem like you are alone, you are not. There are many tools, professionals and support groups that can help you on your journey to successfully managing your BGLs. Here are some of my tips to help you manage:
#1 When you start, be consistent and gradually increase the intensity of your training. This is especially important if you have never exercised before.
#2 Seek help from a diabetes educator or support group such as Diabetes Australia, the BakerIDI, or HypoACTIVE to get you started.
#3 Regularly check your BGLs before, during and after exercise. Consider hiring or buying a continuous glucose monitor to help you understand how your blood glucose levels respond to exercise of varying intensity. I hired one for one week and it was great to learn how my BGLs fluctuated with exercise and food intake. Blood glucose testing equipment now include options that are compact and suitable for carrying while exercising. For example: AccuCheck Mobile, Dario Blood Glucose system and Abbott FreeStyle Libre.
#4 Always carry sugar with you, and stop exercising if you are beginning to feel like your BGLs are dropping and allow yourself to recover from the hypo.
#5 Keep motivated during all seasons of weather, consider indoor training during winter to help you on your journey. Don’t rely on others to motivate you, but they most certainly can support you!
#6 Choose exercise that you enjoy, there should be no activity that you are limited to doing whether it be walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, gardening, weightlifting or yoga.
#7 Plan ahead to allow for insulin adjustments and food intake as required depending on the type and length of exercise. You may be more insulin sensitive in the morning so think about adjusting your insulin dose or food intake if you are going for a long morning run. You may find the opposite holds true for the evening where you are less sensitive to your insulin and more likely to have higher BGLs. Also think about your BGLs after exercise (2-24hours) depending on what activity you have done. The simple rule is always check your BGLs after exercise and adjust things as you need.
These are hopefully some tips that can help you on your journey. It is a journey, even after 8 years of having diabetes I still make adjustments. As frustrating as it may be, it does not take away from the fact that your long term health will far benefit from those small moments of BGL fluctuation.
Good luck and remember you are not ALONE in this journey!
Links to support groups and great websites:
By Daniella Brassacchio