Walking, cycling, going to the gym, playing
football, swimming, and using the stairs instead
of a lift, are just some examples of physical
Physical activity is good for everyone, not just
people with diabetes. It helps you to feel good,
look better and keep trim. And it can actually be
fun. All types of physical activity can help with
your diabetes control – more about this later.
If you’ve been used to having regular periods of physical activity at school or college, it’s easy to let it all go when it’s not all planned for you anymore.
But it is still important for your diabetes management to take 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, so it’s worth thinking about ways that you can fit exercise into your new lifestyle.
If You're Going to Uni or College
Check what sporting activities are available. Colleges and unis often have a much wider range of sports available which you might not have had the chance to try before.
It’s also a great way to meet people when you’re new to college or uni.
You’re likely to have a bit more free time so you’ll have a bit more opportunity for exercise. Exercise is a great way of winding down after lectures.
If your accommodation is a little way from your lectures, try walking rather than using public transport. As well as getting exercise, you’ll also be saving money.
If You're Starting a Job
Check your contracted hours and see what free time you will have for physical activity. Find out if your new place of work has any after work sporting activities – it can be a great way of getting to know your new colleagues.
Some companies offer good deals on things like gym membership – check out whether yours does.
Work out how you’re going to get to and from work. Can you walk at least part of the way?
If you’re working in an area you don’t know, a brisk walk at lunchtime will not only get you familiar with the area, it will also count towards your 30 minutes a day.
Physical Activity and Diabetes Control
Physical activity helps to lower blood glucose levels. This is because when you are active, the muscles are encouraged to take up glucose from your bloodstream for energy.
Activity helps your body to use insulin more efficiently so you may find that your blood glucose test results become more stable too.
What else does it do?
Regular physical activity also helps you to:
• Keep to a healthy weight for your height
• Improve muscle tone
• Keep your heart in good shape by improving your circulation
• Keep your lungs healthy
• Feel good
Other things you should think about...
There are a lot of things to think about before you are active and there’s a big difference between whether you’re just going for a quick swim or running a half marathon.
Most importantly you have to know how to avoid hypos and high blood glucose levels before and after activity.
When you’re active and use extra energy, you need to balance this by reducing your insulin, eating extra food or by doing a combination of both - talk to your diabetes specialist nurse or doctor about this.
The amount and type of food you eat depends on many things so it’s important you think about how fit you are and how often you get active.
• Is it once a day or once a month?
• How much time will you spend being active?
• And how much physical effort do you put into it?
• Are you competitive or just having fun?
Once you’ve thought about these things it’s worth remembering everyone is different. It's a matterof having the confidence to experiment and do reglaur blood tests to help you get it right.
A few restrictions
In general, people with diabetes can – and do – take part in most sports and activities. There are, however, some sports governing bodies that restrict involvement from people with certain medical conditions, including diabetes. Luckily, these are very few.
For example, people whose diabetes is treated with insulin are not allowed to do a lone parachute jump (tandem parachute jumps are usually allowed).
Certain sports like scuba diving have strict guidelines, but this is for your safety as much as anything else. Get in contact with the sporting body (via the web) or your local sports group to find out more.
Insulin and physical activity
Insulin is absorbed more quickly from an active area. For example, if you inject into your thigh before getting on your bike or playing football, your insulin will be absorbed more quickly (and work faster) because your activity means you are using that area more.
So, before doing physical activity, it may be better to inject into your stomach – because, unless you’re doing sit-ups, it’s normally not active.
Anything else to think about
• Chat with your healthcare team to find out more about diabetes and physical activity.
• Always let the person in charge of any structured activity (eg aerobics, football training etc) know that you have diabetes. They need to know where your snacks are and how to treat a hypo, just in case.
• Do blood glucose tests before and after activity.
• Always wear appropriate footwear, and change your socks afterwards (to help keep your feet healthy).
• Enjoy what you do!
Hypos and physical activity
Physical activity will nearly always have an effect on your blood glucose. Because you are being active, your body uses up more glucose as fuel.
If you have taken your usual dose of insulin and then do some activity, you will have less glucose than normal, and this can lead to a hypo.
How to stop hypos when you are active:
• You could reduce your dose of insulin and increase the amount of food you eat beforehand – discuss this with your diabetes specialist nurse or doctor.
• Check your blood glucose before and after activity – that way you can stay in control.
• Changing your injection sites may help.
• Always keep something sugary nearby, in case you feel hypo.
Hypos can happen up to 36 hours after a lot of
physical activity. That’s a long time - it’s
because when you’ve stopped being active,
muscles will still continue to use extra glucose to
replace their stores.
How to stop delayed hypos
• This means that it’s important that you have
plenty of starchy carbohydrates at your next
meal or snack, such as a sandwich or pasta.
• It’s a good idea to eat within an hour after
finishing an activity, and always have a good
supper at bedtime to help your body build up it
Mighty DUKs Top Tips for being active
Here's our step-by-step guide to help you to enjoy being active safely.
1. Test your blood glucose before you start
• If it is slightly lower than usual, have a snack before you begin.
• If it is slightly higher than usual it probably isn’t necessary to
have a snack before you start.
• Don’t get active if your reading is above 15mmol/l or if you have
ketones in your urine. See our Hyper page for more info
2. Think about when you had your last injection
• Try to avoid activity until one to two hours after your injection.
3. Eat more carbohydrate
• At the meal or snack before and after activity. High carb foods
such as extra bread, pasta, rice, chapatis or potatoes will help.
4. Don’t forget that any activity will affect your blood glucose levels
• Even messing about in the park with your mates will use up
energy and can affect your diabetes.
5. If you are going to be active for more than 30 minutes...
• You may need to take extra carbohydrates to keep you going.
A sports drink or fruit juice is ideal, and glucose tablets nearby is
6. Check out the website www.runsweet.com for some really good information about diabetes and exercise