Exercising with an Insulin Pump: Guidelines

How someone exercises when using an insulin pump depends on their activity of choice and insulin needs, but there are general guidelines to follow.

If you are new to wearing a pump and/or exercising, consult your doctor and begin with gentle workouts. Learn what works best for you by starting slow and making small adjustments as you gain experience.

Before Exercising

Before starting any physical activity, it is important to check your blood sugar:

  • If it is low, you will need to consume 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate (or the amount you doctor recommends) and wait about 20 minutes before working out.
  • If the glucose is high, check for ketones; if ketones are present, exercise should be postponed until levels are back within your target range.

Your diabetes team may recommend lowering your basal rate one to two hours before prolonged activities (more than 90 minutes). Insulin pumps provide an option for adjusting the basal rate for a specific time. How much the basal rate is lowered depends on your physical condition and the duration of the exercise; longer activities require lower rates.

During and After Exercising

Always have a quick carbohydrate source with you. If you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while exercising, stop and take 10 to 15 grams of fast-absorbing carbohydrate. Wait 15 minutes and check your glucose level.

Test your glucose after working out and make necessary adjustments. Correct low levels with carb intake. For elevated glucose, wait because your depleted muscles are being replenished with glycogen. If your diabetes team has different advice, follow that.

After prolonged exercise, it may be wise to retain a lower basal rate for a while. Experience, monitoring and doctor’s recommendations are your best guides.

Exercising Disconnected

People engaging in contact sports or swimming may choose to remove the insulin pump while working out. Read the pump manufacturer recommendations and consult your doctor.

Disconnecting from the pump for fewer than 90 minutes is generally safe. The missed basal insulin is usually not replaced.

If disconnection from the pump will exceed 90 minutes, your doctor may instruct hourly reconnection to administer a bolus dose of insulin. If hourly reconnection is not possible, an "untethered" program – involving a morning dose of long-acting insulin and a reduced basal delivery system – may be feasible.

The best tips for safely enjoying intense or prolonged sports while using a pump are found on the blogs or websites of experienced pump-using athletes.

Pump Considerations

You will also want to protect your pump and insulin from extreme temperatures while exercising as that can lead to insulin breakdown.

  • When the pump is worn close to the body, cold weather is usually not a problem. li>
  • If you are exercising in temps higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to shield your pump and tubing from direct sunlight.
  • Pump reservoirs and tubing exposed to prolonged high temperatures may need to be changed more often.

Those participating in high-impact sports are typically recommended to use a flexible plastic cannula, which helps prevent infusion-site discomfort or injury.

Athletes who have lean bodies generally prefer angled infusion sets as they are less likely to irritate the underlying muscle wall. Angled sets also have longer cannulas that are less likely to pull away from the skin than short ones.

Source: Integrated Diabetes and Diabetes Care

Photo credit: Zach Dischner (@flickr)

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...