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Beating Diabetes: Managing Type I During Exercise

 Type I Diabetes Mellitus and Exercise

We introduced the topic of diabetes this month to recognize American Diabetes Month.

Type I Diabetes Mellitus (DM), once referred to as juvenile diabetes, is a genetic condition characterized by the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to facilitate the transport of glucose into the body’s cells to be used for energy production. At one time, those born with Type I DM were doomed to a premature death, often preceded by circulatory issues, disability and blindness. Today, thanks to a deeper understanding and advancements in treatment, Type I diabetics often live a full and normal life, so long as they carefully manage their condition. Exercise is an important part of maintaining optimal health, but for Type I diabetics, careful planning is an integral part of physical activity.

diabetes injection

Timing is Everything

Because Type I diabetics must inject insulin on a controlled schedule in order to manage glucose levels, exercise sessions must be coordinated with the timing of insulin injections to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar. Exercise requires ample amounts of available glucose in the muscle cells and bloodstream to meet energy demands. Longer bouts of vigorous exercise, or high intensity exercise like heavy resistance training, can potentially cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Your diabetic client may need to decrease their insulin dose on days when they exercise vigorously. Exercise sessions should take place around the same time every day, to help manage insulin sensitivity.


Nutrition Matters

Your diabetic client should eat a high-carbohydrate snack about a half-hour before exercise. They may also need to periodically ingest an easily assimilated form of carbohydrate, like fruit juice or a sugary drink, during their exercise session. Your client should monitor their blood sugar levels, checking them before, during and after exercise to ensure levels remain stable. A post-exercise recovery drink like whole milk can help stabilize blood sugar because its balanced content of fat, protein and carbohydrate allows sugar to stabilize gradually. Your client should work closely with their health care provider to manage insulin and exercise.

blood sugar check

Learn More

To gain a deeper understanding about glucose metabolism and diabetes, consider enrolling in W.I.T.S. online courses.  Nutritional Concepts, Certified Personal Trainer Certification, Older Adult Fitness Foundations, and Exercise Program Design for Special Populations all offer insight into how the body uses sugar for energy.



University of California San Francisco; Diabetes Education Online.


Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Don’t Sweat It! Exercise and Type I Diabetes.


American Diabetes Association: Exercise and Type I Diabetes.


NHS: Complications Caused by Diabetes.


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