Exercise And Diabetes

Friday, February 15, 2008

Posted by Helene

My mother just left the US after visiting me for a couple of weeks. The first couple of days that she was here, I did not push her to come with me to the gym. You see, she is diabetic and needed to adjust her blood sugar levels after the jetlag and the usual fatigue associated with traveling. However, after the weekend was over I made her come with me at least every other day and went through a checklist of things she should do and not do in order to make the most of exercising, even my mom who is full blown Type 1 with a pump. Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2, exercise is beneficial to help you lower and regulate your blood sugar, lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease, and nerve problems often associated with diabetes The following points are only guidelines, and as with any health condition you may need to get additional information or support from your health care provider

Exercise will improve your blood sugar control:
Without being too technical, let’s just say that the muscles you use for exercise use glucose for energy, taking it out of your bloodstream and lowering your blood sugar levels. People who exercise regularly need less insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells that need it.

Exercise will reduce your cardiovascular risks:
Diabetes increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. By exercising regularly, you can reduce these risks by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reducing triglycerides in the blood stream. Physical activity also improves blood flow which increases your heart’s pumping power, making it healthier and younger. It also helps control your blood pressure.

What kind of physical activity can you do?
Studies show that diabetics should engage in moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise that lasts at least 30 minutes, on five or more days of the week.
* Always warm up for at least five minutes before you exercise, and cool down for five minutes afterwards. Let the engine run a bit to get your blood flow and isulin adjusted for the next step.
* You can start with 10 minutes (or even less) and gradually increase your workout duration as you become more fit. You can also break the 30 minutes into 3 increments of 10 minutes if it’s been a while since you last exercise.
* Moderately-intense cardio should elevate your heart rate to a level that is challenging. Carrying a conversation with the person on the next treadmill should be challenging but you should not feel like your lungs are on fire.
* The best moderate intensity exercise include: brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, climbing stairs, cross-country hiking, aerobics classes, cardio machines such as the elliptical, skating, tennis, and other sports.
Don’t forget strength training to build lean muscle mass, improve your flexibility and burn calories throughout the day.

Risks of exercise with diabetes and how to avoid them:
* Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar): Exercise can cause your blood glucose levels to drop lowere than usual. You might feel shaky, lightheaded, weak, confused, fatigued, irritable, or hungry; headache; breaking out into a sweat; or even fainting.
Hypoglycemia can happen during exercise, or right after exercise. It may even occur up to 24 hours after you finish exercising. It may come on slowly or hit you like a brick.
Before you exercise, be careful about exercising if you have skipped a recent meal. Check your blood glucose. If it's below 100, have a small snack. If you take insulin, ask your health care team whether you should change your dosage before you exercise.
During exercise: wear your medical identification or other ID. Always carry food or glucose tablets so that you'll be ready to treat hypoglycemia (juice packs, candy)
If you'll be exercising for more than an hour, check your blood glucose at regular intervals. You may need snacks before you finish.
After you exercise, check your blood sugar levels. If your blood glucose is 70 or lower, have one of the following right away:2 or 3 glucose tablets, 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of any fruit juice, 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of a regular (not diet) soft drink, 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk, 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy, 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar or honey
After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again. If it's still too low, have another serving. Repeat until your blood glucose is 70 or higher. If it will be an hour or more before your next meal, have a snack as well.

*Hyperglycemia (High Sugar Level):
Do not exercise if your blood glucose is above 300 mg/dL, or your fasting blood glucose is above 250 mg/dL and you have ketones in your urine.
Keep a log for a few days of your levels before, during and after exercising and meet with your doctor to adjust your levels so that you can exercise safely.
Diabetic Retinopathy (damaged blood vessels in the retina of the eye): if you already have this condition exercise could make it worse. Strenuous activities such as weight lifting can increase the pressure in the blood vessels of your eyes and lead to bleeding or retinal detachment. Ask your doctor to recommend appropriate exercise activities for you.

* Reduced Sensation or Pain in Extremities:
Check your feet for cuts, blisters, or signs of infection on a regular basis. Wear good, properly-fitting shoes with ample cushioning and support . Wear synthetic or cotton-blend socks that minimize moisture problems. Report any recurring, exercise-related pain in your legs or extremities to your doctor right away.

I know all these points seem a little drastic and sometimes scary but diabetes is a serious condition and should not be forgotten while exercising. By going through this list with my mother, we were able to bike, walk, take Pilates and even a Zumba dance class, and keep her blood sugar leveled.

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This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette.


I feel most people do not realise how serious a disease diabetes can be. I saw, first hand when my father was hospitalised for a foot ulcer, how diabetes can destroy people. On the other hand, my mother-in-law who is 78 and has had Type 2 diabetes for the last 35 years keeps reasonably good health as she has been taking care with her diet and regular checkups.

February 17, 2008 at 6:08:00 PM GMT+1  

Great suggestions. We have Type-1 diabetics in the family, so we're all pretty tuned in to keeping them in balance -- but we forget to keep ourselves in balance sometimes! Exercise, good eating, and being aware of your body and what it's telling you -- good advice for all of us.

February 18, 2008 at 5:30:00 PM GMT+1  

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