Getting Comfortable With a More Active Life
Staying active can help keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, which is important for people of all ages with type 1 diabetes. If you are into sports, you may already be familiar with a lot of these tips, but please take a look as a quick review. However, if you aren’t that into physical activity, please read these closely. And don’t worry—we’ll take it easy on the sports talk! Either way, these tips may be helpful to you when planning to be physically active:
- Play it safe! Be sure to check with your diabetes care team before beginning or changing your physical activity plan
- Check your blood sugar. Before starting physical activity, it's a good idea to check it and avoid physical activity if your blood sugar levels are too low or too high
—If your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL, you may need an extra carbohydrate snack, such as a piece of fruit or a few crackers. Then test 15 to 30 minutes later. Don’t start exercising until your blood sugar is above 100 mg/dL
—Do NOT exercise when your urine tests show ketones and your blood glucose is high. High levels of ketones and high blood glucose levels can mean your diabetes is out of control. Check with your health care provider about how to handle this situation
- Prepare for low blood sugar. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) following heavy activity is always a possibility. Be on the watch for symptoms of low blood sugar, and respond quickly. Keep a sugary snack or glucose tablets nearby when you are physically active in case blood sugar levels drop quickly
- Keep a physical activity log. Before and after starting any physical activity, write down your latest blood sugar readings. By reviewing your written records, you'll learn what works for you
- Make physical activity a normal part of your everyday life. You may already be doing this, but if you’re not, it can take a while to get started. Doing little things, like skipping the elevator and taking the stairs instead, can help. Or you can even walk the dog around the block a few extra times. (If you don’t have your own dog, maybe make some extra money by walking your neighbor’s dog). Lots of people use a pedometer to help count steps. Try to increase your daily step count a little each day
- A great way to start being more active is to begin walking. Over time, you may want to progress from walking to running. How? Start walking as normal, then try jogging for a few minutes. If you start to feel winded or out of breath, switch back to a brisk walk. Once you’ve gotten your breath back, try going back to jogging or running again. It may take you a while to run any distance and you may like combining walking, jogging, and running instead of going at a full-out run. Do what’s comfortable for you, but never stop challenging yourself!
Make sure to celebrate success. It may feel discouraging if, let’s say, you’re walking a mile a day while you know people who are running marathons. But remember that any step taken toward being more physically active is a good one. Making lifestyle changes is not always easy, but you can do it. Set goals before starting and reward yourself when you achieve those goals.