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December 20

Exercising safely in Diabetes

If you have decided to start exercising, to help lower your blood sugar and enjoy all the other numerous benefits, I give you a thumbs up. You’ve made a fantastic decision. To ensure, you get the best out of your exercise sessions while keeping you safe, there are certain precautions you need to take.

Before Exercising

Tell your healthcare provider about your decision to increase your level of physical activity. This is important, so that they can set limits for you, to keep you safe. Below is a general guideline for safety before exercising:

It is important that you check your blood glucose levels, shortly before exercising, especially if you just started exercising or use insulin. If your blood sugar is:

if you blood glucose is too low, snack up on some little carbohydrates before commencing exercise
  • <100mg/dl (5.6mmol/l): it may be too low to exercise safely, eat a small snack like a small apple, a slice of bread or a glass of milk.
  • 100-250mg/dl (5.6 to 13.9mmol/l): you are good to go.
  • ˃250mg/dl (˃13.9mmol/l): at this stage, your blood glucose may be too high to exercise safely. Employ other measures to bring your levels down before exercising.

If you use insulin, exercise will affect how much and when you inject the insulin. Your healthcare provider will discuss this with you.

During Exercise

It is important that you check your blood sugar levels during exercises, if you plan on going for a long duration of time, or if you are trying a new activity. It is advisable to check every 30 minutes. Acceptably, this may be hard, especially if you are engaging in outdoor exercises, but you must stop exercising if you begin to feel shaky, weak or confused as this may suggest very low glucose levels (hypoglycaemia, blood sugar <70mg/dL or 3.9mmol/L). In cases like this, treat yourself for hypoglycaemia

After Exercise

Exercising draws on glucose stored in your muscles and liver. Now after exercising, your body works to rebuild these stores by taking sugar from your blood. The more strenuous the exercise was, the longer the blood sugar will be affected. Low blood sugar is possible for even 4-8 hours after exercising. It is therefore advised to eat a small snack after exercising, like nuts, cucumber, a slice or two of bread.

Additional safety tips you can employ when exercising include:

  • Always warm up for 5 minutes before starting to exercise and cool down for 5 minutes after. These periods should be of lower intensity than the rest of the exercise regimen to keep your blood flowing and warm up your joints
  • Always carry a fast-acting carbohydrate food such as glucose tablets or powder when exercising in the event that your blood sugar drops too low during exercise. You can also carry sport drinks, albeit, be careful to check the nutritional facts of any product you are using, in some cases, for a liquid product, you may need to dilute it, if the glucose load is too high, so as to prevent blood glucose spikes.
  • Avoid hot weather workouts: some people tend to lose the body’s ability to regulate body temperature with diabetes. It is advisable that you avoid exhaustion by exercising indoors on very hot days.
  • Take care of your feet: diabetes has part of its complications; numbness or decreased blood flow in the feet. Wear shoes that fit well, never exercise barefooted and thoroughly inspect your feet before and after every workout, checking out for any injuries (blisters, abrasions, punctures) and reporting to your doctor is you see any.
  • Wear boots that fit comfortably and replace your exercise boots as often as necessary preferably every 6 months.
  • Drink plenty of water during your exercise routine. Dehydration can cause your blood sugar to rise.
  • Whatever exercise you do should be energizing but not overly difficult. To achieve this, you can try talking while exercising; if you can’t talk, then slow down. This is very important when you are increasing your exercise routine.
  • Most importantly, stop doing any activity if you feel any pain, shortness of breath or light-headedness.

If you have further questions on exercising safely, or preparing an exercise to achieve your blood glucose and weight goals, feel free to contact us here, we are happy to help you.


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