There is no way that anyone can imagine that having diabetes is ever going to be easy.
Fortunately, for a very large percentage of those who suffer from the disease, there are lifestyle choices which can make it easier to control. For example, exercise can play a large role in the management of the condition. Not only does it improve overall health for anyone, but especially for diabetics, helping to stave off future complications and deal with dips in well-being, it directly improves the diabetic condition.
But, as good as the health benefits of exercise can be, it needs to be done properly to really get the best results possible.
Of course, before embarking on any exercise regimen, a diabetic, or anyone else for that matter, should consult his or her personal physician and insist on clear answers and suggestions from a medical point of view. The diabetic will need to find out which exercises are safe and under what conditions they can be performed. That will vary from person to person, and perhaps even from day to day.
BLOOD GLUCOSE MANAGEMENT
The level of blood glucose rises, for example, in response to exercise. But how much and how rapidly this happens differs from person to person and day to day...sometimes even within the day. A high blood glucose level, say 300 mg/dL can be made to rise even higher with vigorous exercise. Those with Type 1 diabetes who have a fasting glucose level above 250 mg/dL will likely have ketones in the urine. Exercise can raise that further, producing a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
In this condition, the body cannot use sugar (glucose) as a fuel source because there either is no insulin available, or not enough insulin. Fat is used for fuel instead. Diabetic ketoacidosis is quite often the first sign of type 1 diabetes in people who may not yet have other symptoms of the condition. It can also occur in a person who has already been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In addition to exercise, infection, injury, a serious illness, missing doses of insulin, or surgery can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis in people with type 1 diabetes.
There are a long list of symptoms including flushed face, troubled breathing, coma or even death. Obviously diabetic ketoacidosis is nothing to be toyed with.
Alternatively, insulin treatments can produce hypoglycemia (a condition of having too low a level of glucose in the blood). At the same time, consuming carbohydrates to even it up may have undesirable side effects, such as encouraging excess body fat. That excess may in time help push those with pre-diabetes into a full case of diabetes.
Despite potential problems, an exercise designed or approved by competent medical personnel, and followed carefully can still help control diabetes and produce a better situation than not doing any exercise at all.
Having said that, exercise routines for the diabetic should be realistic and begun slowly. Many diabetics need to reduce their level of activity below what would be considered "normal" for the non-diabetic person. Even at a lower level, they will still benefit from the many positive health effects of a good exercise routine. Just as with seniors, or others who may need to curtail physical activity of different kinds, the diabetic needs to monitor their condition carefully and exercise appropriately.
Think long term. Even people without any medical condition can become discouraged and give up on exercise too easily. Working muscles that have been sedentary (a lifestyle that often raises the risk of acquiring diabetes in the first place) can lead to soreness and discomfort. That creates negative incentives to continue the exercise program. Starting slowly and working up to greater effort can solve that problem. Adopt exercise as a part of an overall lifestyle, not as a targeted cure for any specific problem.
One good way to get started is by walking several times per week. For those lucky enough to have access to a pool, swimming is a good cardiovascular exercise category that is easy on the joints.
Whatever your choice, at the beginning you may feel a bit too tired to even get started. That may be the result of low blood sugar. If your physician approves, eating a small snack can possibly help get you up for the effort. A small adjustment to medication may work for others.
For the diabetic, blood sugar monitoring is important, even during exercise, since activity can change blood glucose levels quickly. There are many tools for this. A special watch is available that provides a timer for measuring routines, but which also monitors glucose level.
Whatever method you choose, keep a close eye on what you are doing and what it is doing to you. Stop if you feel dizzy, nauseous or experience other symptoms that tell you something may not be going according to plan.