For people with type 1 diabetes there can be real fear around exercise, not to mention confusion and/or frustration around what actions to take with respect to glucose and insulin. We are here to help. Here are 5 tips (and some bonuses - we‘ve got you) to help you exercise safely.
1. Start in the Goldilocks zone; not too high or too low
Starting exercise with low glucose can be extremely dangerous. This is because exercise itself can lower glucose (or raise it - see below for more on this) and this can be risky.
Similarly if your glucose is high there is a risk you may be producing ketones and in need of dosing additional insulin.
So make sure you’re mindful of your glucose and it is tracking correctly to facilitate your planned exercise. Likewise take into consideration exercise type, intensity, duration of exercise and your individual therapy.
For a guide on actions to take at different levels of glucose check out this blog.
2. Know your glucose - have visibility
The first step is to be able to know your glucose levels, but the next layer deeper which makes things exponentially easier to manage and thus safer is knowing your glucose trend. An isolated value or a few of them are helpful but not as helpful as the trend. Having visibility and awareness of not only where your glucose is, and where it has been but roughly where it is going, is crucial. This will allow you to take less aggressive action, earlier, avoiding both danger and potentially improving management as a result of not needing to work very hard to remedy the situation.
Check out Supersapiens’ Apple Watch integration for the best live glucose experience on the market.
3. High intensity can mean high glucose
High intensity exercise can often lead to increases in glucose as a result of the liver outputting glucose. This is neither abnormal, nor should it be concerning. This occurs in both people with diabetes and people without diabetes and as discussed with our CEO Phil Southerland in this podcast, the understanding that it occurs in people without diabetes has changed the way he manages his diabetes. This information should empower people with type 1 diabetes to be able to better understand their glucose behavior and thus make management decisions, be it using some higher intensity exercise to acutely increase glucose, or modifying how they view the higher glucose in the context of exercise and actions they subsequently take from there. On a similar note, generally, HIIT seems to be a safe and effective means for improving glycemic control and associated factors.
4. Carry Nutrition
The old boy scouts motto of “always be prepared” rings as true here as ever. Knowing your glucose and understanding where it is headed is only helpful if you can manage it. Carrying enough (and perhaps more than enough) nutrition to be able to remedy any situation is crucial for managing diabetes during exercise. Sports nutrition guidelines for people with diabetes also recommend drinking enough (which probably means carrying fluids in some cases).
Bonus Tip - carry some money too in case of needing to stop to get more nutrition.
5. Understand Your Glucose Behavior
Knowledge is power, and understanding factors which impact your glucose and how they do so can help in planning and managing your glucose during exercise. Whilst your current glucose and its trend are perhaps the most immediately important factors to be aware of (see more on this above), understanding factors that impact glucose on a longer time scale can be of great help in your safety and glucose management. Things like prior day’s exercise and activity levels, carbohydrate intake in the previous day and even sleep can all play a significant role in how your glucose responds.
Exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, whilst it can be a source of anxiety for some people with type 1 diabetes, it is possible to exercise (and even be a professional athlete) with type 1 diabetes, it just requires some extra planning and learning. Supersapiens diabetes was launched to help in this exact endeavor. Supersapiens provides the context and insights around glucose that enable this sort of understanding, download the app today to start leveling up your understanding and management.
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- Sheri R. Colberg, Ronald J. Sigal, Jane E. Yardley, Michael C. Riddell, David W. Dunstan, Paddy C. Dempsey, Edward S. Horton, Kristin Castorino, Deborah F. Tate; Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 1 November 2016; 39 (11): 2065–2079. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc16-1728
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- Cannata F, Vadalà G, Ambrosio L, Papalia R, Napoli N. Nutritional Therapy for Athletes with Diabetes. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2020 Nov 13;5(4):83. doi: 10.3390/jfmk5040083. PMID: 33467298; PMCID: PMC7739333.