If you have type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to handle the glucose in your system. Glucose is a sugar that your body uses for instant energy, but in order for that to happen, you have to have insulin. Exercise helps control insulin, but you might be wondering what the best exercises for diabetics type 1 are.
Why Exercise For Diabetics Type 1 is Important
Before you start doing specific exercises for diabetics type 1, it’s important to understand why exercise is necessary. Exercising regularly makes it easier to control your blood glucose (blood sugar) level because it increases your insulin sensitivity. In other words, after exercising, your body doesn't need as much insulin to process carbohydrates.
Exercising will also help you achieve a healthier weight and decrease your risk for developing heart disease. Exercise helps you maintain good cholesterol and cuts your risk of developing plaque buildup and hardened arteries (arteriosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise also keeps your heart healthy and strong.
Now that you know why it’s important to stay active, let’s look at some specific exercises for diabetes type 1.
Exercises for Diabetics Type 1: Where to Begin
The best thing you can do before starting any physical activity is to check with your doctor. It is essential that you select a type of exercise that suits your individual health condition. That’s because some exercises will do more harm than good.
Your doctor will most likely recommend an aerobic exercise that you can try safely and effectively. Aerobic exercises include:
The good news is you don’t have to do high-intensity exercises to reap the benefits. The American Diabetes Association recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, which works out to 30 minutes five days a week. If you think you can't find 30 minutes, you can break up the exercise into chunks—10 minutes here and there. Use an activity app to track your minutes to make sure you’re hitting your goal each day.
Exercises for Diabetics Type 1: The Warm Up
Start by stretching or walking 5 or 10 minutes to get loose. If you’re just starting out, go slow. This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. You can increase the intensity and duration of your workout gradually as you get in better shape.
It is important to check your blood sugar levels before you start exercising, especially on unusually hot or cold days. This will help prevent potentially dangerous fluctuations of blood sugar.
Remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after your exercise sessions. You should also keep some things in your workout bag in case of an emergency. Things like:
- Sports drinks
- Glucose tablets
- Fruit juice
- Insulin pump
According to the American Diabetes Association, your blood glucose response to exercise will vary depending on:
- Your blood glucose level before starting activity
- Intensity of the activity
- Length of time you are active
- Changes you’ve made to insulin doses
Be sure to check blood sugar levels more frequently after the activity and overnight to assess if your insulin doses need to be adjusted.
Another thing you can do is download our guide: “Know Your Numbers: Blood Sugar.” In it you’ll find six questions to ask you doctors about diabetes and other important facts about controlling your blood sugar.