The eXercise Factor

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Yes, that’s my treadmill in the garage!!

Exercise means different things to different people:

  • dreaded
  • addictive
  • fun
  • boring
  • enjoyable
  • tedious
  • social

For those of us with diabetes, exercise is an important part of managing blood glucose. It’s not easy and it’s not always consistent. Whether you ride competitively for Team Novo Nordisk or go for walks around your neighborhood, exercise can be challenging to incorporate into your daily diabetes routine.

Some people avoid exercise altogether because they were never taught how to make it work with diabetes, or because they are afraid of what might happen, or they’ve had a bad experience.

I have found, after years of practice, the following works best for me:

  1. exercise at about the same time every day (I like morning)
  2. exercise after eating (and after having taken insulin for the meal)
  3. take less insulin before aerobic (cardio) workouts
  4. take more insulin before anaerobic (strength-training) workouts
  5. carry blood glucose monitoring and low treatment supplies with me when working out away from home
  6. eat extra carb before exercising if it’s an unplanned activity and insulin is already on board

From time to time I see recommendations for exercise and diabetes that say to eat more carbohydrate, take less insulin, or exercise before taking insulin. This is simply not what works for me. I have practiced enough to know that if I exercise before taking insulin I will go high and if I take less insulin before a strength-training workout I will go high.

The bottom line is that exercise is good and each of us has to figure out what works. Recommendations are certainly a wonderful place to start. If they work – fantastic! If not, we have to do some careful experimenting until we find the solution. Even then, there will be times when what usually works doesn’t work. That’s life with diabetes!

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