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Why is exercise encouraged for people with type 1 diabetes?

On average, people with Type 1 Diabetes do less exercise than those without Type 1 Diabetes. This is mainly because of fear of hypoglycaemia and a lack of knowledge around managing insulin dosing before, during and after physical activity.

However, exercise is fundamentally important for people with diabetes.

Exercise has the power to enhance your mental and physical health. Specific benefits include:

  • Improve mental wellbeing
  • Weight management
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Helps to keep your heart healthy and strong
  • Helps to maintain good cholesterol
  • Leaner, stronger muscles
  • More energy
  • It can also be enjoyable!

As diabetes is largely a condition where you manage your day-to-day treatment yourself, you need to understand what happens to the body during exercise (we cover this in our blog here). This will help you to optimise your blood glucose control, improve your performance, avoid hypoglycaemia and ultimately tailor a plan to suit your training.

Having diabetes should not be a barrier to exercise.

Instead remember that exercise can be both beneficial and enjoyable. Thought and planning is needed to optimise your blood glucose control, and blood glucose needs to be tested before and following exercise. Your carbohydrate intake may need to be altered to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia. 

Here are a few pointers to consider before taking part in exercise:

  • Before starting any new exercise regime discuss it with your healthcare professional. In particular discuss with them how to adjust your pre exercise insulin or diabetes tablets.
  • You need to think about the timing, duration and intensity of the exercise so you can plan your diabetes treatment, food intake and blood glucose testing (we cover this in our blog here)
  • Test your blood glucose regularly during and following exercise and immediately take steps to correct falling blood glucose.
  • Make sure you have all diabetes treatments with you when taking part in exercise.

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