Successful diabetes management calls for a multi-faceted approach. Beyond meal planning and medication, regular physical activity can also provide benefits. Though diabetes requires some lifestyle adjustments, people with diabetes can enjoy playing sports and engaging in other forms of exercise.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve overall health and even increase insulin sensitivity. For this reason, it is recommended that all people with diabetes get some form of exercise1, in consultation with their healthcare provider. It is important that each person with diabetes exercise at a level that is right for them. With the right precautions and medical guidance, even intense exercise can be beneficial for people living with diabetes.
Not all sports will have the same health impact on people with diabetes. For example, sustained jogging or running can reliably lower blood glucose (BG) levels. It can also be a good way to keep body weight in a healthy range.
Here are some common activities or sports and some potential ways to help manage blood sugars. As always, check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, people with diabetes must take certain precautions before any physical activity and especially strenuous activities. Insulin requires careful monitoring of glucose levels. Regular checking of your glucose levels around periods of exercise is critical to understanding how it is impacting your health and glucose readings.
To avoid hypoglycemia, consuming carbohydrates before, during, and/or after activity may be necessary, so always be prepared. The amount of carbs taken will depend on many factors including activity type, duration, intensity, active insulin and starting sugar levels3. Snacking before a workout can still be helpful depending on a person's starting glucose level. Consuming carbohydrates during a workout can be another strategy to help avoid lows. Of course, for any endurance activity, fueling the body with carbohydrates not only helps avoiding lows, but also with nourishing the muscles.
The following strategies can be helpful for those taking insulin:
It is also a good idea to work out with a friend or partner for your own safety.
You should always consult with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimen. With the right preparation and vigilance, people with diabetes can enjoy and excel in sports.
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