Cardio based workouts can be really difficult when living with type 1 diabetes, particularly when you are new to this type of exercise.
Here is some useful information and my tips on how to exercise safely.
What to expect
Aerobic exercise tends to be less intense with a longer duration. Examples include walking, running, cycling and swimming.
Due to the nature of cardio, it can result in sudden sugar level drops and hypo’s. Therefore, we need to use different tactics when managing glucose levels.
*If you are vigorously exercising a muscle group that you have recently injected in, this can cause rapid insulin absorption and very rapid hypo’s. This is a useful tip to consider when preparing to exercise.
Preventing and dealing with drops
1. Check sugar levels before – this allows you to predict and correct hypo’s before they happen. Use your own judgement as to whether you need a snack – remember you know your diabetes best! If you are under 4.5mmol/L I would suggest waiting until your levels come up a bit before starting.
2. Check during your workout – For most people 25-30 minutes of moderate exercise can cause blood sugar to lower. Therefore I would recommend checking every 15-20 minutes, or more frequently if you are exercising at a higher intensity.
3. Carry a snack at all times – Being prepared is vital to prevent hypo’s during your workout. I like to carry juice shots or oat bars when I am walking or running. This means I can quickly correct my sugars before they get too low, and it means I can continue with my workout.
4. Keep an eye out for delayed hypo’s – blood sugar levels can drop for up to 48 hours after a cardio based workout. Therefore it is essential you eat enough carbs and think about adjusting subsequent insulin doses to prevent this. Again, always keep a snack with you and beside the bed in case you need it during the night.
This pretty much sums up the importance of continuous glucose monitoring, especially when working with cardio workouts.
It will get better with experience
The more you repeat cardio based activity, the more experience you gain. Trial and error allows us to see sugar level trends which makes sugar level prediction easier in the future.
Don’t give up, it is worth finding what insulin ratios, exercise types and snacks work best for you!
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