Optimize Your Diabetes Regimen for Physical Actvity


  • Keep fast-acting carbohydrate with you at all times. Glucose tablets work well because they need no refrigeration, are easy to carry, and are packaged for fast and easy access.
  • Eat some carbohydrate during exercise to prevent lows. Taking in carbs during exercise can keep your blood sugar from dropping. Pure glucose products and other fast-acting carbs are digested quickly and start to hit your bloodstream within five minutes. The amount of carbohydrate that you need depends on how long and hard you're exercising, what time of day it is, and how much insulin is in your system. Frequent monitoring of your blood sugar before and after exercise will help you know your needs.
  • If you take insulin, be familiar with its action. Different insulins vary in terms of how fast they start to work, when they peak, and how long their effects last in your body. Know how your insulins work. It's easier to avoid lows if you exercise when your insulin is not peaking.
  • Oral medications with the longest duration (such as Diabinese, DiaBeta, Micronase, and Glynase) have the greatest potential to cause hypoglycemia. Talk with your healthcare professional if you use these and plan to become more physically active.
  • Studies show having a low may affect your body's reaction to the next one. So, you may need more than the usual amount of glucose to raise your blood sugar to your normal range. Be sure to test and always be prepared to correct a low.
  • Increasing your activity level may require you to lower your medication.If you make a change in your exercise routine, consult with your healthcare professional about adjusting your insulin dose and/or oral medications. Even oral medications that do not usually cause exercise-related low blood sugars may need to be considered.

Be aware of the possible symptoms of hypoglycemia, which may vary during exercise. Whenever exercising for an hour or more, check your blood sugar periodically. If you do not feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia (called hypoglycemia unawareness), talk with your healthcare professional about how often to check your blood sugar during and after exercise.

Tip courtesy of Sheri Colberg, PhD, FACSM, author, professor, exercise physiologist, and member of the CanAm Care advisory boards; and Riva Greenberg, diabetes patient-expert, author, speaker, and Huffington Post columnist.

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by Lindsey Guerin
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