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Exercise is an important part of your diabetes management. Your healthcare team will discuss the importance of physical activity for your overall health. Recommendations should be safe, realistic and take diet and medication into consideration. You may be required to test your blood sugar regularly before and after activity when first setting up your plan. This will help determine how activity affects your blood glucose levels so that you can exercise safely. This is especially important if you are taking insulin.
Physical activity can be a powerful tool in preventing or delaying the development and/or progression of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, arthritis, depression and certain types of cancer. The bottom line though, is that the majority of Canadians are not getting enough physical activity on a daily basis.
The benefits to regular physical activity include:
The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that you aim for 150 minutes of physical activity spread throughout the week (for example, 30 minutes on 5 days of the week). How you fit that in is up to you. Research has shown that exercise can improve blood sugar levels for 12-36 hours after the activity.
If you are taking diabetes medication or insulin, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), can be a real concern. Speak with your healthcare team before starting a new exercise plan or making changes to your current plan.
Check your blood glucose levels before and after exercise. Learn your own signs and symptoms of low blood glucose. Common signs are trembling, sweating, anxiety, hunger, nausea, confusion, dizziness or blurred vision. Low blood glucose can cause people to lose consciousness, if not treated quickly. If you feel any of these symptoms, stop the activity and test your blood glucose, if you can. If not, to be safe, simply treat it as hypoglycemia and ingest fast acting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets. If after 15 minutes, you still feel low or your blood glucose is less than 4 mmol/L, take another tablet. Be sure to follow up with your normally scheduled meal or snack to prevent post-exercise low blood glucose.
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