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Diabetes exercise precautions: stay safe, get healthy

Exercise is like a secret weapon for people with diabetes. Not only can a daily exercise regimen improve insulin production, it can also  raise self-esteem and increase bodily satisfaction, particularly for people who are overweight.

Dr. Sheri Colberg-Ochs says, "Don't use diabetes as an excuse not to exercise, use it as an excuse to exercise!" An exercise physiologist, author, researcher and professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Virginia, Dr. Colberg-Ochs has written extensively about living with diabetes. She's also lived with type 1 diabetes since she was four years old and says that she tries to be as active as possible every day. "I walk the stairs at work, because daily movement is really critical."

Exercise precaution for diabetes

Whether you are an avid exercise enthusiast or an intrepid beginner, however, incorporating an exercise routine into your life requires certain precautions. Here are six exercise precautions to take.

  1. Test your blood sugars. Test your blood sugar before, during and after exercise. Although moderate aerobic workouts usually cause your blood sugars to decrease, anaerobic or other intense work can cause them to rise due to an exaggerated release of glucose-raising hormones. Be aware that overnight low blood sugar may result from exercise, and adjust by increasing your evening snack and/or reducing evening insulin dose.
  2. Discuss exercising plans with your physician. Talk to your doctor before you start and/or change an exercise program.
  3. If the numbers aren't right, delay your exercise. Delay exercise if blood glucose is over 250 mg/dl and ketones are present. Delay exercise if blood glucose is less than 100 mg/dl, or eat some carbohydrates before you begin.
  4. Watch your injection sites. Avoid injecting insulin into a site that you will be exercising.
  5. Get a partner. If possible, exercise with someone who knows that you have diabetes and how to help you if you have low blood sugar.
  6. Protect your feet. Wear comfortable shoes and good socks.

How to take precaution when exercising with diabetes

Dr. Colberg-Ochs says if you only have time for one exercise, make it resistance training. Studies have shown that a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training is significantly better for controlling blood sugar than either alone. Exercise can cause fluctuations in blood sugar, and that's why taking precautions is critical for blood sugar management.

Here are five expert tips from Dr. Colberg-Ochs on preparing to exercise:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Cross train: don't do the same thing every day
  3. If you only have time for one exercise, do resistance training
  4. Alternate hard and easy days. Harder days will help with blood sugar control for approximately two days so space the hard and easy days out.
  5. Stay hydrated

Living with diabetes is hard work, and a thirty-minute walk, bike, run or swim every morning is a great way to reward yourself. But, be safe when taking the steps to stay strong, both inside and out.

Article sources  expand

About Amy Stockwell Mercer

Amy Stockwell Mercer is a freelance writer living in Charleston, SC with her husband and three young sons. Her book, The Smart Woman's Guide to Diabetes, Authentic Advice on Everything from Eating to Dating and Motherhood, was published by Demos Health in 2010 and the follow up, The Smart Woman's Guide to Eating Right with Diabetes, What Will Work, will be published in the fall of 2012. Amy has written for several local and national publications including Diabetes Health, Diabetes Mine and Diabetes Forecast. Diagnosed in 1985, Amy has lived with type 1 diabetes for 26 years, and finds motherhood to be the greatest inspiration for living well with diabetes.

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