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Exercising with Diabetes: The Highs and Lows

Like many things in life, we have to try it out before we commit. When first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, typically we're warned to not exercise and if we do, to go easy. Fear of how exercising with diabetes will lower blood sugar (which is not always a bad thing) can be drilled in so often that we avoid it. As diabetics, we're often told we are delicate and should be careful if we decide to get a sweat going.


However, diabetes or not, our bodies were meant to move and regular exercise can help lower blood sugar levels in the long term. In managing diabetes as we age, women need to have a plan. Blood sugar, hormones, energy, bone density, and overall health are all positively impacted by exercise.


There are key benefits of exercise and weight training for women with diabetes if you incorporate a safe exercise routine without fear of the highs and lows.


Five Reasons Exercising With Diabetes is Important for Women in Midlife:


1. Helps control blood sugar levels

Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and allows the body to use glucose more effectively, which can lead to better blood sugar control.


Additionally, when perimenopause approaches regular exercise helps to keep blood sugar in range as estrogen levels fall and increase insulin resistance.


2. Reduces the risk of heart disease:

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. Regular exercise can help reduce this risk by improving cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, and promoting weight loss.


3. Helps with weight management:

Exercise can help women with diabetes maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, if necessary, which is important for blood sugar control and overall health.


4. Reduces stress:

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which can help improve mood and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.


5. Improves overall health:

Exercise has numerous health benefits, including improving bone density, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, and improving overall fitness and mobility.


What Happens to Blood Sugar During Exercise?


Blood Sugar can initially rise during exercise.


If you are planning on experiencing with diabetes, first plan on what type and duration of exercise you'll do. Then, calculate how much insulin and stored glucose you have on board. If you haven't eaten recently or if you're doing high-intensity exercise it's important to know your current glucose level before you begin.


Here's what happens to blood sugar levels during exercise:

  1. Initial rise: When you first start exercising, your body needs energy to power your muscles. To do this, your liver releases stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing a temporary rise in blood sugar levels.

  2. Insulin sensitivity improves: As you continue to exercise, your muscles start to use glucose more effectively, which can improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels.

  3. Continued glucose uptake: Even after exercise, your muscles continue to take up glucose from the bloodstream, which can help lower blood sugar levels for several hours.


How to Exercise with Diabetes Safely and Without Fear

There's nothing sexier than a woman who feels strong and confident, and her muscle tone sure looks amazing in a strapless dress.


Weight training is a great form of exercise for midlife women with diabetes. It can help improve blood sugar control, increase strength and bone density, and promote overall health and well-being.


Here are 5 tips for midlife women with diabetes who are interested in weight training:

  1. Start with light weights and focus on proper form: It's important to start with light weights and focus on proper form to avoid injury and ensure the exercises are being performed correctly. Consider working with a personal trainer or fitness professional to learn proper technique.

  2. Incorporate both upper and lower body exercises: It's important to work both the upper and lower body to achieve a balanced workout. Exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and bicep curls are great options.

  3. Use resistance bands or bodyweight exercises if necessary: If lifting weights isn't an option or if access to a gym is limited, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises can be just as effective. Exercises such as planks, bridges, and bodyweight squats can all be done at home with little to no equipment.

  4. Aim for 2-3 strength training sessions per week: Aim for at least 2-3 strength training sessions per week, with at least one day of rest in between sessions to allow for recovery.

  5. Monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise: Exercise can affect blood sugar levels, so it's important to monitor levels before, during, and after exercise to ensure they remain within a safe range. Consult a healthcare provider for specific recommendations on monitoring blood sugar during exercise.

It's understandable to have concerns about low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when exercising with diabetes, but with proper planning and management, it's possible to exercise safely and without fear. You don't know what will work and how to adjust to it if you don't first try.


Here are 5 more tips to help manage blood sugar levels when exercising with diabetes:

  1. Monitor blood sugar levels regularly: It's important to monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise to ensure they remain within a safe range. This will help you identify any patterns or changes in blood sugar levels during exercise and adjust your management plan accordingly.

  2. Adjust insulin or medication doses as needed: Depending on the type of diabetes medication you're taking, you may need to adjust your doses before or after exercise. Consult with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations on adjusting medication doses.

  3. Eat a snack before exercising: Eating a snack before exercising can help prevent low blood sugar. Choose a snack that's high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as a piece of fruit or a granola bar.

  4. Carry a source of glucose with you: Keep a source of glucose, such as glucose tablets or a sports drink, with you during exercise in case you experience low blood sugar.

  5. Start with low-intensity exercises, like walking or biking, and gradually increase intensity: Starting with low-intensity exercise and gradually increasing intensity and duration can help prevent sudden drops in blood sugar.

Remember to always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have diabetes or any other health concerns. With proper planning and management, exercise can be a safe and beneficial part of managing diabetes.


Create a fitness routine that's just right for you.

It's important for women with diabetes to consult with their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program to ensure they are engaging in safe and effective activities.


Start off with shorter exercise sessions, to learn how your body will respond. Monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise to ensure they remain within a safe range.


If your blood sugar levels are consistently high during or after exercise, note that exercise can have different effects on blood sugar levels for different people depending on factors such as type of diabetes, fitness level, and type of exercise.


Finally, note how your body and blood sugar respond once you finish and again 2-3 hours later. Using a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) is a great tool to see a direct correlation between exercise and your glucose levels. You can also share this data with your doctor or health coach to make necessary adjustments.


Like all lifestyle changes you make managing your diagnosis, when exercising with diabetes you may need to adjust your medication or insulin doses or speak with your healthcare provider for recommendations.


Interested in a safe and empowering environment that will support you in reaching your health and fitness goals? Learn more about our "Sweet Support" Group Coaching, here!


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