Fitness Articles

Exercising Safely with Type 1 Diabetes

Considerations, Concerns and Checklists

If you have this condition (damaged blood vessels in the retina of the eye), exercise could damage your eyesight. Strenuous activities could lead to bleeding or retinal detachment, so you may need to avoid certain activities, such as weight lifting or jogging. Ask your doctor to recommend appropriate exercise activities for you.

Exercise Risk #4: Reduced Sensation or Pain in the Extremities
Because diabetes can cause nerve damage (neuropathy) and interfere with blood circulation, many people with diabetes can lose all or part of the sensation in their feet. To prevent exercise-related foot problems:
  • Check your feet for cuts, blisters, or signs of infection on a regular basis.
  • Wear good, properly-fitting shoes with ample cushioning and support
  • Wear synthetic, wool or cotton-blend socks (not 100% cotton) that minimize moisture problems.
If you experience pain in your legs (or other extremities) at anytime during or after your exercise routine, contact your doctor right away. Exercise-induced pain can be a symptom of one or more diabetes-related complications that require medical attention. If numbness or pain becomes constant or severe, talk to your doctor about alternate forms of exercise that may be appropriate.

Recap: Quick Exercise Checklist for People with Diabetes
There’s no doubt about it—consistent, moderate exercise is one of the most important and effective weapons you can use to affect your overall health. To keep yourself safe, follow this checklist:
  • Talk to your doctor about the right exercises for you.
  • Always check your blood sugar level before, during, and after exercising.
  • Always wear diabetes identification. Every person with diabetes should wear a comfortable necklace or bracelet that states he or she has diabetes.
  • Ideally, work out with a partner that is knowledgeable about your medical condition.
  • Check your feet for blisters or sores before and after exercising.
  • Wear proper shoes and socks.
  • Warm up before each exercise session, and cool down and stretch afterwards.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercising.
  • Bring a fast-acting carbohydrate snack in case you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia.
  • Report any recurring exercise-related pain in your legs or extremities to your doctor right away.
American Dietetic Association. Medical Management of Type 1 Diabetes, Fifth Edition. 2008. American Diabetes Association.
Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes, from the American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Take Charge of Your Diabetes, from the CDC's Diabetes Public Health Resource
What I Need to Know about Physical Activity & Diabetes, from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

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