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Learning About Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise

Can you exercise if you have diabetes?

When you have diabetes, it's important to get regular exercise. It can help you manage your blood sugar level. You can still play sports, run, ride a bike, swim, and do other activities when you have diabetes.

How does exercise help when you have diabetes?

Getting regular exercise can help control your blood sugar.

Your body turns the food you eat into glucose, a type of sugar. You need this sugar for energy. When you have diabetes, the sugar builds up in your blood. But when you exercise, your body uses sugar. This helps keep it from building up in your blood and results in lower blood sugar and better control of diabetes.

Exercise may help you in other ways too. It can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight. It also helps improve blood pressure and cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Exercise can make you feel stronger and happier. It can help you relax and sleep better. And it can give you confidence in other things you do.

Exercising safely when you have diabetes

Before you start a new exercise program, talk to your doctor or diabetes care team about how and when to exercise. Some types of exercise can be harmful if your diabetes is causing other problems, such as problems with your feet. Your doctor can tell you what types of exercise are good choices for you.

Here are some general safety tips.

  • Check your blood sugar before and after you exercise.

    Be careful about what you eat, especially when taking insulin.

  • Take steps to avoid blood sugar problems.
    • Ask your doctor or diabetes care team what blood sugar range is safe for you when you exercise.
    • If you take medicine or insulin that lowers blood sugar, check your blood sugar before, during and after you exercise.
    • If your blood sugar is less than 5.5 mmol/L, eat a carbohydrate snack first.
    • Be careful when you exercise if your blood sugar is too high. Drink water to prevent dehydration.
  • Always wear a medical bracelet or necklace. You can buy these at most drugstores. Or try a temporary medical ID tattoo. All of these products can help medical personnel give the right care.
  • Try to exercise at about the same time each day.

    This may help keep your blood sugar steady. If you want to exercise more, slowly increase how hard or long you exercise.

  • Have someone with you when you exercise.

    Or exercise at a gym. You may need help if your blood sugar drops too low.

  • Keep some glucose tablets or quick-sugar food with you.

    You may get symptoms of low blood sugar during exercise or up to 24 hours later.

  • Use proper footwear and the right equipment.
  • Pay attention to your body.

    If you are used to exercising and notice that you cannot do as much as usual, talk to your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or diabetes care team if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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