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The Diabetic Athlete

Staying Active With Type 1 Diabetes
By Dr. Joseph Henske



What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition most often diagnosed in children and young adults that occurs when the pancreas does not produce the insulin your body needs to perform several vital functions including regulating the amount of sugar in the blood stream and circulating sugar throughout the body so that it can be used for energy. Without adequate insulin, sugar builds up in the blood stream and can cause serious complications affecting many organs in the body including the heart, kidney and eyes. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels and use diet and lifestyle modifications and insulin medications to manage their diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes & Activity:

Fortunately, there are ways individuals with Type 1 diabetes can enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. For athletes living with type 1 diabetes, it’s all about self-awareness and balance. It is important to monitor your sugar (glucose) levels and make adjustments to your diet and insulin dosing when needed to keep your blood sugar level within a healthy range. Glucose levels can impact a wide- range of athletic abilities including your strength, speed, stamina, flexibility and your body’s ability to heal. Keeping your blood sugar within the desired range allows your body to perform its best and helps prevent health complications or injury.

It is important to be aware that various activities can impact your blood sugar levels differently and require additional recovery time. Blood glucose levels should be monitored continuously while engaging in physical activity, including before and after you exercise, to ensure that your blood sugar stays within a healthy range.

Tips for Staying Active with Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Always consult with your primary care physician before starting a new exercise routine or making any changes to your treatment plan.
  • Become familiar with how your blood glucose levels respond to exercise. Understanding how your body reacts to different activities and identifying patterns can help you anticipate and prevent your blood glucose levels from getting too high or too low.
  • Be sure to carry blood glucose monitoring equipment, your insulin pump and snacks with you to prevent low blood sugar.
  • Avoid administering insulin to the parts of your body you will be utilizing during the activity.
  • Engage in more structured exercise routines versus sporadic activity that can make managing blood glucose levels difficult.
  • Follow the “15-15 Rule” throughout your workout
    • Check your blood glucose level.
    • For readings below 100 mg/dL, have 15-120 grams of carbohydrates.
    • Re-check your blood glucose after 15 minutes. If it is still below 100 mg/dL, have another serving of 15 grams of carbohydrate.
    • Repeat these steps every 15 minutes until your blood glucose levels are at least 100 mg/dL before starting to exercise again.
  • Make sure others are aware of your diabetes and know what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Eat foods rich in carbohydrates prior to engaging in physical activity including high fiber fruits like apples, pasta, or legumes.

Regular exercise is can help individuals with type 1 diabetes lower their blood pressure, blood sugar and A1C levels which can reduce the amount of insulin medications needed to manage their diabetes. For more information on how to manage your diabetes and stay active with diabetes, schedule an appointment with a DuPage Medical Group Endocrinologist by calling630-789-4910 or schedule online at https://www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/diabetes-care/.


Topics and Subtopics: Diabetes Care & Endocrine System Disorders

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Diabetes Care & Education Endocrinology
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