We all know how important exercising is for our overall health, from decreasing the risk of having health problems, such as obesity and heart disease, to reducing stress and anxiety. Exercise also plays a fundamental part in lowering HbA1c and helping to keep glucose readings in range.
Many people living with diabetes know that exercise is important, but might need some guidance about what type of exercise to do, and how to avoid slipping into a hypo during and after exercise.
Keep reading for a simple guide to different types of exercise, and how they might impact your glucose readings!
LISS (Low Intensity Steady State Training)
LISS training is activity that takes place over a longer period of time and is less intense. It is recommended that 30 minutes is completed everyday, that can be walking, jogging, cycling or swimming.
This type of training is great for lowering overall sugar levels, and I find walking to be the best treatment for a hyper, alongside an insulin correction dose. But, a lot of people slip into a hypo very quickly during LISS training.
So, to prepare for LISS training I would recommend making sure your sugar levels are steady at around 7.0-8.0mmol/L before exercising, and potentially decreasing your insulin dose very slightly before your session. Always make sure you have water and a source of glucose with you at all times when exercising.
Keep an eye on your sugar levels for a few hours following exercise to make sure you don’t drop into a hypo.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT are circuit type workouts, where you have periods of very intense training, followed by rest periods, for example 1 minute of sprinting, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
This type of training is perfect for a busy day when you are pressed for time. HIIT can sometimes cause sugar levels to rise initially due to a surge of adrenaline, but shortly after, sugar levels can drop quite rapidly. So if you notice that your levels are rising during a workout, make sure you don’t over-correct.
HIIT can also continue to burn calories for hours after finishing a session, so bear in mind it could cause a hypo during this time too. I recommend having a balanced snack afterwards containing carbs, a source of protein and fat. This should help to avoid a sudden hypo after your workout.
Weight Lifting / Resistance Training
Weight lifting and resistance training are super important to incorporate into your routine. The benefits of this type of training include building muscle, strengthening bones, and increasing metabolism. Resistance training can be split into two categories, heavy training and light training.
All resistance training will increase your strength, build muscle and improve endurance, but you can tailor your training to fit your specific goals.
If you want to build more muscle mass, focus on training heavier weights and less reps (I’d say 10 reps or less per set). However, if you want to build general strength and tone, opt for lighter weights and more reps (10-20 reps per set).
In terms of sugar levels, resistance training can actually have the opposite effect to your sugar levels. Generally I find that heavy resistance training can cause sugar levels to increase, and I have heard the same from some other people living with Type 1. So if the same happens to your sugars when lifting weights, I would recommend to not train if your glucose levels are 9.0mmol/L or above.
Furthermore, I would leave your insulin dose before exercise the same, or even increase it a tiny bit. I like to increase my dose by either half a unit, or one unit. If you have a CGM or flash glucose monitor take full advantage of this, keep track of what your sugar levels are doing, make comparisons and then make adjustments to your insulin dose, and what you are eating before and after exercise.
If you are opting for lighter resistance training, this can mimic cardio based exercise meaning your levels might drop. Bear this in mind, and prepare as you would for cardio based training.
Yoga / Pilates
Stretching can sometimes be overlooked, and a lot of people are shocked by the benefits of yoga and pilates when they start training it.
Some advantages of stretching can include increased flexibility, protection from injury and help with muscle tone and strengthening. I would recommend performing a form of stretching everyday, as it aids recovery and is great at helping you to relax.
In general yoga and pilates will not impact sugar levels too much, depending on the intensity. Of course more intense yoga sessions may cause sugar levels to drop, but a gentle stretch will not impact sugar levels.
Some final tips
Ideally all forms of exercise should be completed regularly, because each type contributes to the health and overall function of the body.
If you are trying out a new form of exercise, definitely pay close attention to what your sugar levels do, so you can put measures in place to keep sugars as balanced. This will contribute to you getting the best results and the most out of the workout.
Also take full advantage of the psychological benefits of exercise, and enjoy it! I would always recommend choosing exercise that you want to do. If you feel forced to take part in certain types of exercise it can strip the benefits and have a negative impact on your mindset. So if you hate running but love walking, walk instead!
Thank you for reading my simple guide to exercise with diabetes! I really hope you can take some tips away and try something new! Always remember that you can do anything while living with diabetes, you just have to be prepared.