Make sure that the activities you choose are effective for your health-and safe for you to do.
Make sure the activities you choose are appropriate and effective for your health - and safe for you to do. Discuss your activity plan with your healthcare team. Here are some things to consider:
- It’s important to know the condition of your heart and cardiovascular system, as well as your eyes, kidneys, feet, and nervous system. Be sure to talk with your physician.
- Your physician may recommend that you have a stress test to see how your heart reacts to exercise. If the test shows signs of heart disease, ask what precautions you need to take.
- If you’re experiencing diabetes complications or other health concerns - high blood pressure, kidney disease, eye disease, poor circulation, and so on - you may be restricted from doing some sorts of exercise. Find out the options for what you can do safely.
- Choose the activities you’d like to do and make plans. Start slowly and don’t try to do too much. Think about activities that are realistic, that you enjoy and can do without too much strain on your body.
- Read up on exercise programs - or get input from a fitness expert. Your diabetes educator can also be a great resource.
- Learn how your blood glucose responds to your chosen activity. Everyone’s blood glucose response to exercise is different. Checking your blood glucose before and after exercise can show you the benefits of activity. You also can use the results of your blood glucose tests to prevent low blood glucose or high blood glucose.
- If you have Type 1 diabetes and your blood glucose is high before you exercise (above 250 mg/dL), physical activity can make it go even higher, so be cautious. If your fasting glucose level is above 250 and you have ketones in your urine, it’s best to avoid physical activity. If you have Type 2 diabetes and your glucose is chronically high, you also need to be cautious. If your glucose is above 250 mg/dL, exercise could stress the body in ways that would send your glucose even higher.
- The exception would be a person with Type 2 whose glucose is normally in control, but who is experiencing a high spike. In this case, exercise can actually help bring the glucose level back to where it should be.
- Learn how to avoid low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Low blood glucose is most likely if you use insulin or certain diabetes medications; if you skip the meal before your exercise; or if exercise for a long time, or strenuously. If your glucose is 100 mg/dL or below, you should avoid exercise. Have a meal or snack to get your glucose into a safer range, and then start your activity.
- If low blood glucose is interfering with your exercise routine, adjusting your medication or meal plan may help. Talk to your health care team about what is right for you.
- During activity, check your blood glucose if you are feeling weak, hungry, or shaky; these are signs that your glucose may be too low. If your blood glucose is 70 or below, you are becoming hypoglycemic.
- Be sure to have a carbohydrate snack handy. If your glucose drops too low, follow the “15-15” rule. Stop the activity. Have a light snack of about 15 grams of carbohydrates - for example, three or four glucose tablets, ½ cup (four ounces) of fruit juice, or ½ cup of a regular soft drink. After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL, have another serving and repeat these steps until your blood glucose is at least 70. Do not continue your activity until you get your glucose up to at least 100 mg/dL.
- Your body will continue to burn glucose more efficiently even after you stop your activity. Check your blood glucose after exercise, especially if you feel it’s dropping.
- Have water handy during your activity, especially if it’s hot and you’re perspiring. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activity.
- Wear a medical identification bracelet, necklace, or a medical ID tag to identify yourself in case of emergency - especially if you exercise away from home.
- Keep track of your progress. Keeping an exercise log can be a great motivator.