12 Safe Exercise Tips for People with Diabetes

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By : dLife Editors

As you are well aware, exercise is a requirement for someone with diabetes, whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

It keeps your muscles flexible, the blood flowing properly through your body, as well as keep your blood glucose levels in check as you go through your day.

The following are some useful tips and information for staying safe while exercising with diabetes.

Be sure to make an appointment to see your doctor before starting an exercise program.

If you have certain diabetic complications, like nerve damage, eye disease, and kidney disease, your doctor may recommend very specific ways to exercise.

Once you’ve gotten approval to start a fitness program, follow these tips to stay safe while you exercise:

1. Check your Levels

Exercise 1

Test your blood sugar levels before, during, and after a workout. For most people with diabetes, the safest blood sugar range to start a workout is between 100 mg/dl and 250 mg/dl (5.6 mmol/l and 13.9 mmol/l).  If your blood sugar levels are below 100 mg/dl (5.6 mmol/l) before you exercise, have a snack that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate and test again in 15 minutes.

2. Keep a Log

Exercise 2

Use an exercise log to track your exercise activities and your blood sugar levels before and after exercise.

3. Sweets for Safety

Exercise 3

Keep a source of fast-acting carbohydrates (e.g., glucose gel or tablets; Sweet Tarts; juice box) nearby for low blood sugar emergencies. Also, carry an energy or a protein bar with you in your gym bag.

4. Talk with your doctor about insulin

Exercise 4

When your muscles are working, the insulin you inject works faster, increasing your risk for a low blood sugar. So be sure to check with your doctor regarding when to take your insulin and/or medications before you exercise.

5. Stay Hydrated

Exercise 5

Drinking water before, during, and after exercise is important for reducing your risk of dehydration associated with erratic blood sugars and heat stroke.

6. Identify Yourself

Exercise 6

Always wear a medical identification tag or bracelet when you work out, so if you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia others will know how to help you in the event of an emergency.

7. Warm Up and Cool Down

Exercise 7

The ADA recommends a warm-up of 5-10 min of aerobic activity (walking, cycling, etc.) at a low-intensity level and gentle stretching for an additional 5-10 minutes. The cool-down should also last 5-10 minutes until heart rate has returned to pre-exercise levels.

8. Dress Appropriately

Exercise 8

9. Breathe Normally

Wear well-fitting shoes and socks and breathable and weather-appropriate clothing to prevent foot problems and heat stroke. Consider a visit to your podiatrist before starting an exercise program.

Exercise 9

When strength training, do not hold your breath, as it can affect your blood pressure and cause you to feel lightheaded.  See your doctor for medical clearance before starting resistance or strength training.

10. Start Slow

Exercise 11

If you’re new to exercise, or if you’ve been inactive for a long time, start off by going easy on yourself, increasing tempo, distance, and time as you gradually build your stamina over time.

11. Save Your Breath

Exercise 10

A slight shortness of breath is normal during cardio training, but laboring to catch your breath is not.  You should be able to carry on a conversation while you exercise.

12. Carry a Phone

Exercise 12

If exercising outdoors, always have access to emergency medical service via a cell phone or other means of communication.

Reviewed by Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN.

Updated by dLife Editors 11/18.