Staying Active

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Staying Active

Diabetes Type 1
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Staying Active
Staying Active
Physical activity can lower blood sugar, but people with type 1 diabetes need to exercise caution to avoid problems.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Staying Active
Getting regular exercise is a great way to stay healthy. It helps to prevent heart disease. It also can help to keep weight and blood sugar under control.
Many people with type 1 diabetes exercise every day. Both children and adults with type 1 diabetes compete in sports. Some are professional athletes. However, in a person with diabetes, exercise can lead to a steep drop in blood sugar levels. This condition is called hypoglycemia. To avoid this, you'll need to balance insulin and food intake with the amount of exercise you do. Dose and timing of insulin injections are very important.
Talk with your health care professional — or your child's — to come up with the best approach for your (child's) lifestyle.
Exercise Tips
Practice basic good exercise habits. In addition, take a few extra precautions for safe exercising.
    • Work with your health care professional or team to determine what exercises are best for you or your child.

    • Try to schedule exercise at the same time each day.

    • Exercise an hour or two after eating. That's when blood-sugar levels are at their highest.

    • Check blood sugar before and after exercise.

    • If blood sugar is extremely high — 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or more — don't exercise until you check urine for ketones. Ketones are produced when the body makes emergency fuel because you are not processing glucose well.

    • If blood sugar is low before or after exercising, eat an appropriate snack.

    • Carry glucose tablets or a high-carbohydrate snack.

    • Drink plenty of fluids.


    • Wear well-fitting, comfortable footwear. It should be appropriate to the activity.

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Exercise Precautions
For certain people, and in certain circumstances, more safeguards may be needed. For example, if you have eye or kidney problems, it is critical that you choose activities that will help but not harm your body.

Exercise Precautions for Type 1 Diabetes

If blood sugar is 240 mg/dl or more and there are ketones in the urine …
Do not exercise until sugar levels drop and ketones are absent.
If there are no ketones in the urine, but blood sugar is 300 mg/dl or more …
Do not exercise until sugar levels drop below 240 and you have taken in extra fluids.
If you are over age 35 …

If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure …

Or if you have complications from diabetes

Your doctor may first recommend a treadmill test to check your heart, to be certain aerobic exercise is safe for you.
If you have eye damage (retinopathy) from diabetes …
Avoid high-impact sports or exercise that involves straining or jarring. Examples include weight lifting, racquet sports and jogging. Better choices are walking, swimming or stationary cycling.
If you have decreased sensation in your feet …
Avoid exercises with repetitive weight-bearing motion. This includes treadmill, jogging and step exercises. It's better to use exercises that don't put weight on your feet. Examples include swimming, cycling and chair exercises. Wear proper footwear. Check your feet frequently for blisters.

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Last updated June 10, 2014

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