Registered Nurse, educator, public speaker, humorist, author, and radio host
Diabetes and activity
May 15, 2017
Spring has arrived, and with it, abundant outdoor activities. Whether it be organized sports, leisure walks, long bike rides or more time at the gym, persons with diabetes should plan accordingly to avoid exercise induced alterations in their blood sugar (glucose) levels. Here some simple tips to keep your energy high and get the most out of these fun-filled days.
Breakfast is important! You have most likely gone 7-9 hours without a meal. Breakfast will supply nutrition to fuel both your brain and body. It is also important to eat this meal, as many diabetic related medications depend on food intake to work properly. Skipping breakfast will put a person with diabetes at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) which, left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Physical activity is important for everyone, especially persons with diabetes. Exercise can improve your blood sugar level by increasing insulin sensitivity in your cells. Your body will use the glucose more efficiently; thus, lowering blood sugar levels. Exercise has also been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and stress levels. Weight loss can occur with regular exercise, which also positively affects blood sugar levels.
Persons with diabetes should plan accordingly when it comes to exercise. They should make sure that their blood sugar levels are normal prior to starting an activity and that they have fast acting glucose sources available in case their blood sugar levels drop due to exercise. They should also stay hydrated during extensive exercise. Most persons with diabetes recommend checking your blood sugar level before engaging in extended (or new) activities, eating a snack if need be, and carrying fast acting glucose medications or foods with them.
Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels below 70mg/dl) may include sweating, jittery feeling, confusion, weakness, dizziness, hunger, and nervousness or anxiety. Fast acting sources of glucose, used to treat low blood sugar levels, may include glucose tablets or gel, 4 ounces of juice or soda, 2 tablespoons of raisins, hard candies or jelly beans. The goal is to eat/drink 15 grams of carbohydrates at this time and recheck a blood glucose level in 15 minutes, repeating x 1 if needed.
Spring brings with it the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities, which may improve our overall health and well-being. Take advantage of the warmer weather, get outside and enjoy the season!