Athletes around the world are now competing (and competing well) with diabetes. Scott Dunton, a professional surfer with type 1 diabetes, is just one example of how exercise does a body good!
However, there are some things I wish I had always known about exercising with diabetes…
Being active has always made me feel better, physically and emotionally. But here are some other things about exercise that I wish someone had told me years ago.
1) Exercise can help erase your blood glucose “mistakes”
- Exercise acts as an extra dose of insulin, figuratively.
- At rest, insulin is the main way to get glucose into muscle cells, but during exercise, glucose goes muscles without insulin (caused by muscle contractions).
- Being regularly active makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin, so you will need lower doses of it overall.
- What better way to help erase a little overeating of carbs (or some insulin resistance) than a moderate dose of exercise to lower your blood glucose?
2) Exercise doesn’t always make your blood glucose go down
- It doesn’t always make your blood glucose come down, at least not right away.
- During intense exercise, the glucose-raising hormones your body releases can raise your blood glucose (think high-intensity interval training).
- Over a longer period of time (2-3 hours), it usually comes back down.
- If you take insulin, take less than normal to correct a post-workout high or your blood glucose will likely be crashing low a few hours later.
- A cool-down of less intense exercise (like walking) can help bring it back to normal, though.
3) Your muscle mass is critical to managing blood glucose levels
- Exercise helps you build and retain your muscle mass, and muscles are the main place you store carbs after you eat them—like a gas tank.
- Exercising helps use up stored carbs, but can also increase the size of the tank.
- When you eat carbs post-exercise, they can easily go into storage with a little insulin (or sometimes none at all).
- Being sedentary keeps the tank full and makes you resistant to insulin.
- Aging alone can cause you to lose muscle mass over time.
- Resistance training and/or high-intensity intervals build muscle more, so you need to include these activities regularly as part of your workouts.
4) It’s the best medicine there is
- Control stress and stave off depression with exercise—and it has no bad side-effects!
- Exercise is a natural antioxidant—better than supplements!
- Being active prevents all sorts of cancers, including prostate and breast.
- It will help you feel better and look younger than you are (and we can all use help with that).
- You’ll be even less likely to catch a cold, if you exercise moderately.
- Don’t forget your daily dose of exercise “medicine”
- Standing more, taking extra steps, and fidgeting help–just be active all day long any way that you can!