Regular exercise is an important part of every healthy lifestyle, however, it can be challenging for a Type 1 Diabetic. Exercise significantly affects the blood glucose levels so here are some Type 1 Diabetes exercise guidelines to help.
While it is wise to check with your physician before adding any new exercise program this is even more important for a Type 1 Diabetic since it will make a significant effect on blood glucose levels.
With a Type 1 Diabetic child, monitoring exercise can be challenging but it is so important in maintaining optimal glucose levels.
While we understand that physical exercise is important we need to keep watching for any signs of hypoglycemia in any child who takes insulin.
With good planning and awareness, a child can exercise and participate in sports safely.
Why Exercise is Good for Diabetics
Physical activity can help keep the blood sugar levels in their target range and help to lose weight (if needed). It can also help prevent or delay the complications of diabetes. So, what types of exercise are safe for Type 1 diabetics to choose from?
Aerobic and resistance exercises are recommended for people with diabetes, but any activity that gets you moving and elevates your heart rate is a good choice!
There are plenty of fun activities for children that will keep them moving.
Aerobic exercises have a wealth of benefits for people with diabetes. They help your body use insulin better, relieve stress, improve blood circulation, and reduce your risk for heart disease by lowering blood sugar (glucose) and blood pressure levels, and improving cholesterol levels.
Examples of aerobic exercise for kids include biking, walking, jogging/running, swimming, dancing, and organized sports.
We choose seasonal activities with our grandson. In summer we like to ride bicycles, swim, play soccer and jump on the trampoline or sometimes a hike on the trails in our area. In winter we like to go skating and sledding.
Naturally, we always have the all-important little black bag and snacks with us in case they are needed and blood glucose is monitored frequently.
Swimming is a great aerobic exercise, that can help enhance with overall fitness level. As well, swimming also helps improve heart health: the constant movements of arms and legs allow the blood and oxygen in the body to be pumped more efficiently.
Many people enjoy swimming as their aerobic activity because it is a low impact exercise. Unlike higher-intensity sports like football or running, swimming doesn’t strain your joints. It also uses both upper and lower body muscles at the same time, which actually helps control diabetes: stronger muscles become more sensitive to insulin and absorb more glucose from the blood.
Swimming is the perfect exercise for kids because it is so much fun. They get to cool off on a hot summer day and get some exercise without even realizing they are exercising.
Exercise Guidelines for Type 1 Diabetic Children
Good planning means checking blood sugars before, during, and after exercise. Then, you can keep a record of how exercise affects your grandchild’s blood sugars. Remember that each child will react to exercise differently. But using your records, you can usually predict how your child will react to an activity.
Use the following tips for exercising safely:
- Do not let your grandchild exercise if blood sugar is over 14.0 mmol/L and ketones are present.
- If your grandchild’s blood sugar is over 14.0 mmol/L before exercise, he or she may need to drink more fluids. Check your child’s blood sugar during the activity to be sure the level is lower.
- Make sure your grandchild’s blood sugar is in the target range before exercise—to avoid low blood sugar.
- Make sure your grandchild wears identification. Some children may prefer a temporary medical ID tattoo instead of a medical ID bracelet, especially when playing sports.
- Make sure your child drinks water so he or she does not get dehydrated.
- Your grandchild’s parents can talk with the doctor about lowering the insulin dose that your child takes before exercise.
- Inject the insulin before exercise in a site other than the parts of the body your grandchild will be using during exercise. For example, if your grandchild will be running, do not inject insulin in the leg.
- Have some glucose or sucrose tablets or solution or quick-sugar food (hard candy, fruit juice, honey) on hand at all times. You can also make sure your grandchild’s coach carries quick-sugar foods.
- If your grandchild’s blood sugar is below the target range before exercise, consider giving your child 15 grams of carbohydrate from glucose or sucrose tablets or solution or quick-sugar food (hard candy, fruit juice, honey). If your child will be exercising very hard and for longer than 30 minutes, you may want to consider another 15 grams of carbohydrate from glucose or sucrose tablets or solution or quick-sugar food. Younger children may need less quick-sugar food.
- If your grandchild plays in organized sports, give the coach a list of the symptoms of low blood sugar and instructions about what to do if it occurs.
- Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar for 12 hours after exercise, especially if it is a new activity.
- Your grandchild may use a diluted (watered down) form of sports drink during activity to get fluids and sugars.
While our grandson is still quite young and his journey in the Type 1 world is still relatively new we have discovered that he is happier and healthier when he gets regular exercise. We also find his blood glucose is more easily managed when exercise is a part of his daily activities.
With it being winter in Canada finding fun activities takes a little planning. We find he loves skating and sledding which are fun ways to incorporate exercise.
We went to our daughters’ for New Year’s Eve and played a dance game on Nintendo Switch or Wii which was a fun active evening for everyone.
In summer we all enjoy soccer in the backyard.
We monitor our grandson frequently when we are active and keep apple juice handy if he shows signs of going too low we can easily treat him immediately before it gets too serious.
Living an active lifestyle with a Type 1 Diabetic grandchild is not as difficult as I thought it would be.
A few simple tweaks and we all enjoy our usual activities just like before the diagnosis.
I hope this helps you realize how continuing to live an active lifestyle can benefit a Type 1 Diabetic.
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