Diabetes & Exercise Guidelines - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on May 02, 2016

Diabetes & Exercise Guidelines

You already know that exercise is good for you, but what if you have diabetes? We pulled together this list of benefits and what you need to know.

Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Lowers blood sugars
  • Helps the body use insulin better
  • Increases energy levels
  • Improves heart health and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Improves strength, endurance and flexibility
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Relieves stress

Remember to always consult your doctor before starting an exercise plan.

Exercise Guidelines to Follow If You're Diabetic

Blood Sugar Guidelines Before Exercise

  • Lower than 100 - If your blood sugar is too low to exercise safely, eat a small snack containing carbohydrates (15-30 grams), such as fruit or crackers, before you begin your workout.
  • 100-250 - You’re good to go!
  • 250-300 - This is a caution zone. To make sure it's safe to exercise, test your urine ketones. Excess ketones indicate that your body doesn't have enough insulin to control your blood sugar. Wait to exercise until your urine ketones test kit show a low level of ketones in your urine. You can get a kit through a prescription at a Wheaton Franciscan Pharmacy if you don't already have one.
  • 300 or Higher - Your blood sugar may be too high to exercise safely, putting you at risk of ketoacidosis, which is a serious complication that needs immediate medical treatment. Postpone your workout until your blood sugar drops to a safe pre-exercise range.

What You Need During Physical Activity

  • Water
  • Medical ID bracelet, necklace or tag
  • A source of glucose (sugar) in case you have a low blood sugar, such as glucose tablets, fruit juice or hard candy

What to Check While Exercising

When exercising watch for signs of low blood sugar and check your blood sugar every 30 minutes if:

  • You are planning to work out for more than 30 minutes
  • Trying a new activity
  • Increasing how hard or how long you are working out

If you experience low blood sugar while exercising:

  • Eat a glucose tablet, drink fruit juice or have hard candy.
  • Retest your blood sugar 15 minutes later. If it's still too low, have another serving of glucose and retest 15 minutes later again. Repeat as needed until your blood sugar reaches at least 70.

Blood Sugar Guidelines After Exercise

  • Check your blood sugar levels right after your workout and several times during the next few hours.
  • Exercise uses glucose stored in your muscles and liver. Your body refills the empty glucose with sugar from your blood, so low blood sugars are possible even hours after exercise.
  • If you do have low blood sugar after exercise, eat a small carbohydrate containing snack, such as fruit or crackers.

For More Information

If you have questions regarding exercise and diabetes, we encourage you to contact your Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group physician. Don't have a one? Find a physician now.

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Diabetes & Exercise Guidelines