Watch Your Blood Glucose Levels when Exercising
You already know that exercise can help you with your goal blood glucose levels—even long after you stop exercising—but there are other things you should know when it comes to blood glucose levels and exercising with diabetes.In this article, we'll walk you through when to monitor blood glucose levels, and we'll go over some special considerations for exercising with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Exercise's impact on your blood glucose levels is pretty complex because so many factors are involved: how long you exercise, how intense the exercise is, and your blood glucose levels before you start a workout. Also, the impact exercise has on blood glucose levels can vary from person to person. That's why it's so crucial to talk to your healthcare professional before you get started with an exercise routine.
Monitoring Blood Glucose Levels Before, During, and After Exercise
Before exercising with diabetes, you should:
- Get approval from your healthcare professional to begin an exercise program, and ask him or her how often you should check your blood glucose levels when you exercise.
- Ask your healthcare professional if you should change the amount of medication you take before you begin a workout (especially if you take diabetes medications that can cause hypoglycemia, which is when you have low blood glucose levels). He or she can also let you know if it's better for you to exercise before meals or after meals.
- Check your blood glucose levels. If they're below 100 mg/dL, have a light snack such as a granola bar or some crackers and cheese. If your blood glucose levels are below 70 mg/dL, take glucose tablets or have a serving of glucose gel. Wait until your blood glucose levels come up before exercising; you just need to re-test your blood glucose levels to make sure you're okay to exercise.
During exercise, you should:
- Carry a light snack or glucose tablets so you're prepared if your blood glucose levels drop.
- If you exercise longer than an hour, take a short break to check your blood glucose levels. If they're below 70 mg/dL, eat a snack. Wait for your blood glucose levels to come up, and then re-test to make sure you're in your goal range.
After exercising, you should:
- Check your blood glucose levels to see how that particular exercise affected your blood glucose levels; this will help you better understand which exercises you can do.
Be sure to keep track of your blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise; you can do this by writing down your numbers in a blood glucose levels log. This information can help you determine what worked for you the next time you exercise.
Considerations If You're Taking Insulin
In general, you have to be more careful when exercising if you're taking insulin since your risk of hypoglycemia can increase during and after exercise.
Here are some considerations for exercising if you're taking insulin:
- Where you inject the insulin: For example, if you inject insulin in the thigh instead of the stomach, it will be absorbed more quickly; this could cause your blood glucose levels to drop more quickly during your activity. "
- How much insulin you take: If you take too much insulin, your blood glucose levels may drop while you're exercising.
- When you take insulin: If you are taking insulin within 2 to 3 hours after activity, it could cause your blood glucose levels to drop too fast. Work with your healthcare professional to come up with a plan.
- The type of insulin: This can also affect blood glucose levels when you exercise. There are different types of insulin, such as short-acting and rapid-acting insulin, so talk to your healthcare professional about how the type of insulin you take can affect you.
Other Considerations for People with Diabetes
There are some other special considerations for exercising with diabetes you need to be aware of:
- Avoid intense exercise if your blood glucose levels are more than 250 mg/dL and you have ketones or if your blood glucose levels are more than 300 mg/dL without ketones. This can lead to ketoacidosis—a potentially life-threatening complication for people with type 1 diabetes (although some people with type 2 diabetes can get it, too).
- Wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace in case of an emergency.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water/no-calorie fluids throughout your workout.
- Wear comfortable clothing, shoes, and socks.
Blood Glucose Testing and Your Exercise Routine
Although testing and adjusting your blood glucose levels to fit your exercise routine can take some time, exercise is beneficial in the long run because it can help you reach your goal blood glucose levels. When you make exercise a part of your daily routine, it becomes easier. Remember to stick with it—you can do it.