Tips For Blood Sugar Management When Exercising

Understanding how your workout routines influence your glucose levels is so important when exercising with type 2 diabetes.

Always consult with your doctor or diabetes educator about the effects of exercise on blood sugar if you are just starting to get active, or are intensifying your workouts, and consider the following:

  • Exercise Type Matters. The two types of exercise people engage in - aerobic, and resistance training (anaerobic) - can affect blood sugar levels differently.
  • Aerobic activities, such as swimming, brisk walking, and cycling utilize large muscle groups, and get our heart rate up for a time. Because this type of exercise burns a lot of fuel, it can help lower our glucose levels.
  • Instead of lowering our blood sugar, resistance training may elevate it. The short bursts of intense effort required during resistance activity triggers the release of adrenaline, and stress hormones, which can signal the liver and muscles to release stored sugar into the blood stream.
  • New Activities, New Numbers. Checking glucose levels is especially important when embarking on a new type of physical activity.
  • Exercise that our body is not used to creates added stress, so may have a greater effect on blood sugar for the first few weeks, than it does later on. For instance, a new swimmer might notice a 60 point drop in blood sugar after a half-hour swim, but after doing laps regularly for a few months the drop might be only 25 points after 30 minutes.
  • This holds true even for individuals who exercise regularly and decide to try a new activity. It’s unwise to assume your blood sugar will respond to a new exercise as it does to a familiar one.
  • Water Wisdom. When the body is low on water the sugar in our bloodstream becomes more concentrated, so even minor dehydration can elevate glucose levels. It’s best to be well hydrated before starting to exercise, and drink eight ounces of water for every 20 to 30 minutes of activity. Consuming some unsweetened sports drinks when exercising in hot, dry, or humid weather can help keep electrolytes in balance.
  • Watch The Highs. When glucose levels are elevated (above 160mg/dl) before or during exercise, it’s a good idea to stop and re-hydrate, follow prescribed protocol for insulin or oral medication, and be attentive to what the body is saying.
  • If people exercise with very high blood sugar (above 250 mg/dl) there is risk for dehydration, and a toxin buildup in the bloodstream when fat and sugars are not well processed and utilized. Resistance training or other strenuous exercise that can elevate blood sugar should then be avoided. Moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, may help to bring glucose levels down.
  • Watch The Lows. The rapid heart rate, sweat, and fatigue brought on by exercise can mask symptoms of low blood sugar such as lightheadedness, shakiness, vision changes, facial heat, tingling in legs, fingers, or mouth. It’s important - especially for those using insulin - to be alert for any sign of hypoglycemia, and to stop and monitor as needed.
  • Consider treating any glucose reading under 80 mg/dl with about 15 grams of a quick carbohydrate source such as glucose tablets, or 4 ounces of juice. Before continuing to exercise, digesting a snack with about 10 carb grams plus some fat and protein can help prevent another drop.

Our overall fitness level, the time of day, medications, and our blood sugar history influence glucose levels while we workout as well. That’s why monitoring before, during, and after exercising - and keeping a log - is recommended.

Also, keep in mind that regular exercise improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Getting in shape, or even a change in activity habits may require dose adjustments for insulin or other diabetes medications.

Source: GingerVieira/Diabetic Living
Photo credit: Bill Morrow

Get a Free Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who may contact you with updates and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy.

More Articles

It is estimated that 80,000 children and adolescents each year are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Juvenile diabetes is diagnosed when the body...

As the summer months come to an end, we throw aside our swimsuits and bring out our favorite team jerseys! In America, fall means football, and...

The medical community relies heavily on the goodwill of its citizens, as giving blood and organ donations help save thousands of lives every year...

Evidence is mounting that consuming black cumin helps to manage type 2 diabetes. The spice lowered blood glucose...

It's not uncommon to spend several years living with type 2 diabetes and not even know you have the condition. Despite regular check-ups with your...

More Articles

Type 2 diabetes has become so common in Western culture and media that this often lifelong, serious condition doesn't really raise an eyebrow...

Limiting our intake of highly processed foods, and eating more whole and lightly processed fare can boost our nutrient and fiber intake, lower...

Lantus is a once a day insulin injection that is taken at the same time every day. It replaces anywhere from the average three to five insulin...

Improving your A1C reading requires you to maintain consistently healthy blood...

Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean you can't help your community by being a blood donor. When persons with diabetes maintain good control...

Most of us do not regularly keep the fruit that scientists call Fortunella margarita in our refrigerator. That these small, yellow-orange...

A diagnosis of diabetes usually comes with a list of recommended lifestyle changes. To make these diet and exercise...

Having diabetes affects your body’s ability to handle hot, humid weather, and steamy temperatures can degrade diabetes supplies. But all of this...

Fashion and function come together in clothing developed by AnnaPS, making life a bit more comfortable and convenient for insulin users. The...

Not only is dry skin uncomfortable, but scratched or cracked skin is also susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections – common medical...

One way to ensure our body gets a variety of nutrients is eating nutrient-dense foods, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on our planet is...

Financial aid and scholarship money are available for people with diabetes, but acquiring it requires an investment of time and patience. Whether...

Any sweetener you use to replace table sugar is a sugar substitute. One type of sugar substitute is artificial sweetener. Three other types...

Smoking is a proven health hazard for everyone, but it is an especially dangerous habit for those with diabetes. Research shows that smokers with...

While life on the road can be tough on musicians, it’s especially challenging for those battling diabetes. Some musicians have to check their...