Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Having type 1 diabetes do pose certain challenges towards your fitness journey, but it doesn’t mean you have to halt or settle on your fitness goals. On the contrary, this is more of a reason to stay active and enjoy daily activities and exercise! For individuals with type 1 diabetes, exercise is great to manage weight, increase insulin sensitivity which help control glucose levels.
What is type 1 diabetes and what types of exercises are good for those who have it. Type 1 Diabetes is an auto immune disease where your body does not produce insulin. As stated by the American Diabetes Association, “In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.” In simpler terms, when an individual with type 1 diabetes ingests carbohydrates they need insulin to stabilize their glucose levels. This can be managed with an insulin pump, insulin pen, or injections. This does not limit someone with type 1 diabetes to cut out certain exercises, this means they will get to know their body even better and the feelings that come with high and low blood glucose levels. Each individual will have a different target glucose range they aim for throughout the day to keep their diabetes under control. The individual will also work with their doctor on targeting a glucose range to aim for when they exercise to avoid having hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Exercising when an individual has type 1 diabetes means they will be checking their glucose levels more frequently to make sure they are okay and comfortable to begin exercising. The individual’s glucose response to exercise can vary depending on these factors: what their glucose level was prior to exercise, how intense their exercise is, the duration of activity they do, and their insulin dosages. For instance, if the individual is preparing for a six mile race of some sort, they may check their glucose levels every twenty to thirty minutes for two hours before the race to make sure they are stable enough to exercise. It is considered good practice to test your glucose level an hour before exercise, and then again right before you exercise to make sure your levels are stable. When giving yourself insulin, it takes time for your glucose levels to come back to normal if they are high, it is not an instantaneous thing which is why it is required to test your glucose levels frequently throughout the day. Once you know you are stable to exercise, you are free to begin! Last but not least, we’ll discuss appropriate exercises for those who have type 1 diabetes.
And those exercises are... ALL exercises! Everyone has their own preference on how they like to exercise. An individual who’s got type 1 diabetes can do resistance training, swimming, running, triathlons, iron mans, high intensity exercises, biking, etc. There are no limitations an individual with type 1 diabetes has during exercise unless they are experiencing complications from diabetes and have been told by their doctor to avoid certain types of exercises. The important thing to remember is to know how your body reacts to different types of exercises. There are certain stressors on the body that may cause glucose levels to spike during exercise for some individuals. It is all about learning how your body reacts to certain exercises and managing those reactions by monitoring your glucose levels and adjusting your insulin levels accordingly. Individuals with type 1 diabetes also should be mindful of their glucose levels after they workout.
The key is learning how to recognize how your body feels after a certain type of exercise and managing your insulin and nutrition in-take to help sustain your target glucose levels prior to exercise and post exercise. Always remember that having type 1 diabetes is not a limitation, it is just an adjustment! Need help in that department? Contact us or drop us an e-mail to alistaireNF@gmail.com and let's make that step towards your fitness journey TOGETHER!