Exercise

Being active has many benefits for your physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.

It also plays a major role in the management of diabetes.

If you have diabetes, physical activity can improve the action of insulin in the body.

It can therefore help lower your blood glucose levels.

Regular physical activity can also:

  • Increase muscle strength and bone mass
  • Improve circulation
  • Help with weight loss and weight control
  • Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve mental activity, and positive outlook

But take care…

It is important for people with diabetes who take certain blood glucose lowering medications or use insulin to take special precautions when being physically active.

This is because physical activity can help insulin work more effectively, sometimes lowering blood glucose levels too low.

Discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator.

Recommended activity levels

It is recommended to be active on most, preferably all, days of every week.

For exercise to have the most benefit, it is recommended to achieve 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days or accumulate 150-300 minutes each week.

If you do no physical activity currently, this activity time can be reached with shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes each and can be gradually built up to the recommended amount.

The benefits of moderate intensity activity

Moderate intensity activity will increase your heart and breathing rate.

When you’re working at a moderate intensity you should still be able to talk, but be puffing too much to be able to sing.

It is also important to include muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week, such as sit to standing exercises and to include exercises that improve flexibility and balance such as standing on one leg.

To keep motivated it is important to choose activities you enjoy or make your physical activity fun so that they become a regular part of your daily life.

You can begin being more physically active today simply by using the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the tram or bus a stop earlier or park on the far side of the shopping or supermarket car park.

Attend an education session.

Website: Tips and Ideas for Adults (18 – 64 years)

Before starting a planned exercise program…

  • Have a check-up with your doctor and discuss your exercise plan.
  • If you are unsure of how to begin being physically active, speak to your doctor about a referral to an exercise physiologist.

An exercise physiologist is a university qualified health professional who specialises in physical activity programs for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes. An exercise physiologist may be able to help you with education, advice, support and an exercise regimen suitable and enjoyable for you.

  • During exercise, stop and rest if you experience pain or discomfort. Make sure that you have this checked by your doctor before you resume further exercise.
  • Carry some form of identification on you in case you are injured or feel unwell.
  • If you take certain diabetes medications or insulin that can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose level), always carry hypo treatment with you in case your blood glucose level drops too low. If you experience hypoglycaemia stop and treat it immediately and discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator. If you are unsure if your medication will cause hypoglycaemia, ask your Doctor or Diabetes Educator.
  • Always wear good quality, well fitting, closed-in footwear as recommended by your podiatrist.

Exercise and type 1 diabetes

During exercise, glucose is used to release energy. The muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin for up to 12–16 hours after exercising, therefore you are at risk of a hypo. A hypo may occur during or after exercise. Some people may have a hypo many hours later or overnight.

Tips to avoid a hypo:

  1. Learn how your body responds to exercise by monitoring and recording your blood glucose levels before, during and after exercise. Note the type of exercise and duration. This will help you to work out how much extra carbohydrate to eat as well as if you need to reduce your insulin dose.
  2. Talk to your doctor about how much insulin you need before and after exercise.
  3. Always carry hypo treatment with you when exercising, for example jelly beans.
  4. Check your blood glucose before, during and after exercise.
  5. Make sure your blood glucose level (BGL) is above 6mmol/L before starting exercise.
  6. Do not exercise if your blood glucose level is high (over 15 mmol/L) and ketones are present or blood glucose is over 20 mmol/L. Take extra insulin as advised by your doctor and delay exercise.
  7. Never omit your insulin before exercising, your doctor will advise you whether you need to reduce your dose. Omitting your insulin could cause high blood glucose levels and ketones may develop.

Hyperglycaemia

Hyperglycaemia or high blood glucose levels can occur following brief/intense exercise such as competitive sports. This is because the body produces an increased amount of adrenaline, which stimulates the release of glucose from the liver. Blood glucose levels may later drop.

Helpful links

Information sheets

Education sessions