Simple guide to fitness with diabetes!

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.

woman girl silhouette jogger

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)

cold snow internet winter

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.

person holding barbell

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.

photo of woman doing yoga

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.

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Education on Diabetes, Psychological

Supporting family and friends living with diabetes

If you have a friend or family member living with diabetes and you are wondering how you can support them, keep reading for some pointers!

1. Don’t be the ‘diabetes police’

The ‘diabetes police’ is the term we use for when it feels like a family member or friend is constantly nagging about diabetes, and making the person feel overwhelmed and even out of control.

Nagging makes everyone feel frustrated, and makes the friend or family member with diabetes feel like they are doing something wrong all the time. It may even cause them to shut off and not speak about any issues they are facing with their diabetes.

The hard truth is that people living with diabetes cannot ALWAYS have balanced sugar levels because so many factors can cause glucose levels to fluctuate.

An example is saying something like ‘should you be drinking that? There’s too much sugar in it for you’. A comment like this is going to make the person living with diabetes feel guilty and stressed about their choices. So maybe it is better to say something like ‘there is also a diet/sugar free option, take whatever you need’.

2. Ask them exactly how they need support

Everyone is different and people living with diabetes may struggle with different things at different times.

For example, one month high glucose may be an issue, whereas the next month it could be the opposite, and the person living with diabetes might be struggling with a lot of low glucose events.

By offering help, your friend or family member living with diabetes will acknowledge your support and they might bring up a topic they are really struggling with, that you had absolutely no idea about. For example they could be really nervous and stressed about a checkup appointment and could really use your advise and support.

The burden of living with diabetes can really impact wellbeing and can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. Just checking up on your friend or family member living with diabetes will go a long way and can make such a positive impact to their health and mindset.

3. Encourage healthy eating

Encouraging healthy eating can actually be really simple and subtle.

If a friend or family member with diabetes is coming over for drinks or a meal, the easiest thing to do is to make sure there are food or drink options available for them. For example, choosing to make a meal that contains brown carbs rather than white carbs.

Again, just communicate and ask what you can do to make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the diabetic any preferences they have when it comes to cooking.

For more tips on foods to eat with diabetes, read my blog 5 foods diabetics should be eating!

4. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of hyper and hypoglycaemia

Learn how your friend or family member specifically acts when they have high or low sugar levels. The general symptoms of both hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia are pretty similar, and different people can experience different symptoms.

General signs and symptoms include thirstiness, feeling ‘hangry’, irritability, anxiety, dizziness and sweating. For more information look at the signs and symptoms on the NHS website.

The best way to be supportive is to ask your friend or family member how to recognise their hypo’s and hyper’s, and how they would like you to react when they are experiencing either.

Always carry snacks around and make sure you know how to check their sugar levels just incase.

5. Encourage them to get further support

If it’s clear that your friend or family member is struggling with diabetes in any way, gently encourage them to get some advice. It can be as simple as encouraging them to join a Facebook group that is aimed at supporting people living with diabetes.

Thank you so much for reading this weeks blog! Remember to email me any feedback or requests!