Exercising With Diabetes

When a person who doesn’t have diabetes takes exercise, the release of insulin from the pancreas is shut down, whereas other hormones are produced that cause the blood glucose level to rise.

When you’re taking insulin or sulphonylurea (SU) tablets, however, your insulin level goes on rising and, if you’ve had an injection into one of the limbs that you’re exercising, the insulin may be absorbed faster than usual.

When you know you’re going to exercise, you can adjust your medication and/or diet to make allowances. You dose of insulin may have to be cut by as much as half, depending on how vigorous an exercise session you’re planning.

It’s more difficult when you take exercise unexpectedly, and this can be a particular problem with children. Once again, the solution is to have your quick-acting carbohydrate handy – a sugary drink, a biscuit or glucose tablets.

Delayed Hypos
Vigorous exercise can also lead to a delayed hypoglycaemic reaction. For example, a strenuous workout in the evening may cause night-time blood glucose levels to fall as your muscles replenish glycogen stores. A reduction in the bedtime insulin dose may be necessary in these circumstances.

Don’t Stop Exercising

As long you take sensible precautions, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t take part in any kind of sport that you want to and at any level. Both Gary Mabbutt and Alan Kernaghan had type 1 diabetes and played Premier league football, and Sir Steven Redgrave – five times Olympic rowing champion – developed type 1 diabetes before his final gold medal.

Many people with diabetes take part in just about every known sport – although there are some that require special considerations, such as scuba diving or hang gliding, and they might be better avoided! In any case, the high-risk sports often have special rules and regulations relating to people with diabetes, and it is important for your own safety that you abide by them.