Balancing Fun And Exercise: Biking Safely With Diabetes

“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.” ~ John Howard, cyclist.

Because we are our bicycle’s engine, biking is a pleasurable way to get and stay in shape. Beside benefitting glucose control and cardiovascular health, cycling tones our leg muscles with minimal impact on hip, knee, and ankle joints, and is easy on the feet.

Cycling gets us outside to breathe fresh air, and increase our vitamin D level with a dose of sunshine. The fun and sense of freedom biking provides dissolves our stress, as well.

Biking Safely With Diabetes

May, being National Bike Month, is a great time to dust off our bikes if we haven’t already, and here are six suggestions for enjoying them safely:

  1. Though we never forget how to ride a bike, those who have been inactive for some time should get a doctor's okay before hopping on and pedaling off.
  2. Michael Riddell, Ph.D., from the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University in Toronto recommends people on insulin or sulfonylureas test their blood sugar level twice, about 20 minutes apart, before biking. This lets people know not only what their glucose level is, but where it's heading. During the bike ride, it’s wise to test every 30 to 40 minutes, and to keep an eye on glucose levels for a few hours after riding.
  3. It’s so important to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly as temps climb. Drink a cup or two of water before biking, and re-hydrate every 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. For any length bike ride, remember to wear a helmet, and your medical alert bracelet or tag. Use a waterproof pouch to keep glucose meters, strips, I.D. info, and cell phones unaffected by sweat or rain. Carry glucose tabs, or other quick carb sources, and take a snack. A small insulated pouch or cooler is the best place for insulin during long, warm outings.
  5. If cycling alone, tell someone where you are going, and when to expect you back.
  6. Naturally, calories are consumed while bike riding, but not enough are lost to justify overindulging at mealtime. A 155 lb. individual, for instance, pedaling for 30 minutes at a moderate pace (12 to 14 mph) will burn about 280 calories.

Out of shape bikers are recommended to choose mosty flat and familiar routes to begin with, and to rest frequently. Distance and more challenging terrain can be added as strength and stamina build. Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise through out each week, and try to make each bike ride, or other workout session at least ten minutes long.

A Couple Bike Tips

Even ten minutes on a bike can seem too long if a bike is not suited to the rider’s frame. For comfort the handlebars should be adjusted so the pedaler’s arms are relaxed and slightly bent while riding, and shoulders can remain back and down, away from the ears. (This will not apply to those who have aerodynamic, built-for-speed road bikes with dropped handlebars.)

To adjust the seat a rule of thumb is putting it about hip bone level. Or, people who haven’t cycled for several years might position the seat so just their toes touch the ground while sitting the bike. If a bicycle remains uncomfortable despite adjustments made, consider visiting a bike shop to get expert advice.

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~ Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

Source: Diabetic Living; I Love Bicycling; Accu-Chek
Photo credit: Jeroen Bennink

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