Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise

Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise

It’s been about a year now since I started exercising. And I mean – solid exercising. At least 45 minutes each day, 6 days a week. It took some getting used to, but it’s helped my blood sugar levels normalize and my body is strong and fit, which always leads to one response when people find out I’m diabetic: “Really? YOU??”

I guess that’s a compliment?

Anyway… I used to hate exercising when I was little. Aside from the obvious exhaustion after exertion, it always got my blood sugar readings out of whack. Suddenly, I’d feel my heart beat race, my hands tremble and I’d be sweating buckets – all symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. I was too young to understand the delicate balance between the foods I ate, the times at which I ate and my level of physical activity. I didn’t know how to carb count, I was only vaguely familiar with the insulin sliding scale and correcting for highs and lows? Forget about it! Throw a workout into the mix, and my blood sugar ranges were frightening.

I began learning more about this balance in college after trying out an insulin pump, which I was assured was “perfect for the constantly on-the-go lifestyle” of a college student. I didn’t exercise back then very much, (excluding my 1-mile treks to the nearest minimart), but I’ve been able to use the knowledge I gained back then to gauge how much insulin I need now based on what I’m going to eat and how much I’m going to exercise.

Unfortunately, there’s no formula that works for everyone. I’ve got my basal rate; I correct for highs and lows with a 30:1 insulin ratio and adjust about a unit of insulin for every 15 or 20 minutes of high intensity exercise I do – boring information if you’re not diabetic, but incredibly helpful if you are. This is what works for me. Remember: it’s taken me 20 years to find my own balance. I’ve experimented, my blood sugars have gone far too low and far too high, and don’t expect what’s right for me to be right for you. If you’re a type 1 or type 2 diabetic, talk to your doctor about what regimen works best for you.

But also remember: you should be making room for exercise in your daily routine! Whether you’re type 2 and want to drop a few pounds to help increase your insulin sensitivity, or type 1 and are simply trying to lead a more active lifestyle, exercise is an important factor in your overall health. The endorphins released during exercise have elevated my mood, helped me improve my diet, gotten me smiling more and just basically feeling better about myself. Who doesn’t need that?

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