So, you want to start exercising or increase the level of activity that you're already doing? That’s great. But people with diabetes need to be mindful of more than just getting their heart rate up or losing weight. You also need to be aware of how your exercise routine might affect your blood sugar. The key is being prepared.
Here is a diabetes exercise pre-workout checklist you can use for that preparation. It will enable you to enjoy your workout with peace of mind and good glucose control.
Get clearance for exercise from your diabetes healthcare team
It is important that you talk with your healthcare team to ensure that the type of exercise you want to do is suited to your needs and any limitations you might have. Your doctor may suggest a physical exam and other measures of your health, such as a stress test or EKG. There may also be certain adjustments to your insulin routine. Since exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity, you may need less insulin or need to change your insulin dose before and after exercise. Once you have the green light from your healthcare team, you are ready to move on to the other checklist items.
Check your blood sugar before and after exercising
It’s very important that you get into a habit of checking your blood glucose before you start each exercise session. Exercise typically lowers your blood glucose. So, if your sugar levels are below 100 mg/dL before starting your activity, you will want to eat a snack with 15 grams of carbohydrate, wait 15 minutes and then check your blood again to make sure that is it rising before you start your exercise.
If your blood sugar is 250 mg/dL or higher before you start, check for ketones. If you test positive for ketones, don’t exercise until you know that you are free of ketones. Ketones indicate that your blood sugar has been high for some time. Instead of exercising you should contact your healthcare team for guidance.
If your blood sugar is higher than 250 mg/dL but shows no signs of ketones, you might be able to continue with your exercise routine. It would be wise, however, to consult your diabetes healthcare team if your blood sugar remains high.
It’s also important to check your blood glucose levels after you exercise. Glucose levels can drop for several hours after your activity ends. Every person’s body responds a bit differently to exercise. Make note of particular ways your body and glucose levels respond to your chosen activity. This information will prove helpful if you and your healthcare team need to make changes to your diabetes management plan.
Carry a fast-acting source of glucose
As a person with type 1 diabetes, you should always have a fast-acting source of glucose with you, and it is especially important to have access to some when you are exercising. This fast-acting glucose need not be bulky or weigh you down. It can be as simple as putting some glucose tablets, a few pieces of hard candy or a small box of raisins in your pocket in case you need to raise your blood sugar during a low blood sugar reaction.
Bring your glucose meter if your exercise will last longer than 30 minutes
You should also carry your glucose meter with you in case you need to check your blood during your activity. If your activity runs longer than 30 minutes, you’ll want to pause and check your blood around that time to ensure that you are in a safe range.
Drink fluids before and during exercise
Drink adequate amounts of fluid before and during your exercise to avoid dehydration, especially if your workout causes you to sweat much.
Wear your medical IDMedical identification comes in many forms these days. You can wear a necklace, bracelet or carry a medical ID card in your wallet or purse. It is important that you have something to identify you as a person with diabetes should an emergency occur. Your medical ID should state that you have type 1 diabetes and take insulin. It should also include your name, address, phone number, doctor’s name and number.
American Diabetes Association. "Don’t Let Diabetes Get in the Way.”
Joslin Diabetes Center."Know Before You Go: A Pre-workout Diabetes Checklist."