Research shows that diabetes shouldn't keep anyone from being active. We see diabetic athletes successfully compete in strenuous events such as Iron Man Triathlon or professional football.
What is diabetes?
It's caused by a deficiency (Type I) or malfunctioning (Type II) of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas. Without insulin, glucose or sugar can't enter the body's cells that need glucose for energy, movement and heat.
Exercise and diabetes
Exercise lowers the blood sugar levels. It helps improve the body's use of insulin, thereby reducing the amount of insulin needed from an injection. Exercise also increases the blood flow to the skin and muscle tissue. It increases the amount of insulin in the blood stream. Therefore, if the diabetic begins exercise with a blood sugar level that is too high, the sugar level will continue to rise. Exercise also stimulates the liver, which releases glucose to the blood stream.
Balancing Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetic individuals have to maintain a good balance of the body's blood sugar level, not too low or too high. When the body produces too much insulin, the blood sugar levels drop, causing hypoglycemia. A lack of insulin and rising blood sugar causes hyperglycemia.
Symptoms of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia are decreased physical performance, mood swings, paleness, tremor, headache, sweat, poor vision, fatigue, hunger and dizziness.
Symptoms of high blood sugar or hyperglycemia are sleepiness, dry mouth, frequent urination, fatigue and extreme thirst.
Walking with Diabetes
- Exercise regularly. Walking is a good way to prevent weight gain and cardiovascular disease – the top killer of diabetics.
- Choose properly fitted shoes to prevent blisters and other injuries. Diabetes slows wound healing, so taking care of your feet is very important. Socks are also critical. Get socks made of today's miracle fabrics that wick away sweat and prevent blisters.
- Check your blood sugar levels before and after walking. Too low – eat some carbohydrates. Too high – postpone your walk until your blood sugar levels lowers. On long walks, check your blood sugar levels regularly. The best time for walking is 1–2 hours after a meal, when your insulin and blood sugar levels have settled down.
- Consult with your physician before you start any exercise program. Your insulin requirements will change with exercise, so check it regularly with your physician.
- Drink a glass of water an hour before walking and a cup of water every 20 minutes while walking. After your walk, drink another glass of water. For long walks of 2 hours or more, consider a sports drink that replaces salt – but check the carbohydrate content on the label.
- Carry along a snack to use when you (or your walking partner) detect signs of low blood sugar. After the walk, you may need to eat more carbohydrates than usual to prevent delayed hypoglycemia.
- When walking, be aware of your body and how you are feeling. It can be difficult to tell whether you are sweating from exertion or hypoglycemia.
- Walk with a partner and wear a medical ID bracelet that lists your diabetes. This is critical in a medical emergency.
- Walking can reduce the daily dosage of insulin, improve the hemoglobin A1C levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and heart disease. It also reduces the risks of developing Type II diabetes.
Remember, diabetes is manageable. Come out and walk with us!