1. Choose something fun: Exercise doesn’t have to automatically mean the gym; you can choose from many options. What do you like? What sounds like fun? When you enjoy what you’re doing, you lose track of time and of the work you’re doing. Like company? Choose a team sport. Like music? Try dancing. In search of solitude? Go walking in the open countryside. Want a total workout? Give swimming a go. These are just a few ideas. Anything that raises your heart rate counts.
2. Get your doctor’s approval: Tell your doctor about what you want to do. He or she can make sure that you’re in the right shape for it and, if not, propose some measures that will get you ready. Your doctor will also be able to advise you on whether the activity will have an impact on your meals, insulin use, or antidiabetic medicine. He or she can also inform you if there are any particular diabetic risks associated with the activity, eg, ulceration and fracture, for insensitive feet with marathon running.
3. Check blood sugar levels: With exercise, your blood sugar levels may require careful monitoring. If exercise lasts more than an hour, check your blood sugar levels regularly during your workout. Check your blood sugar levels after every workout, so that you can adjust them if needed. Sometimes your doctor may advise you to also check them before your workout.
4. Keep a snack handy: In case your blood sugar gets low, it’s always wise to keep a small carbohydrate snack, like fruit or a fruit drink, close at hand.
5. Slowly does it: If you’re just beginning to exercise, take things easy: start with 10 minutes of exercise. Once you’ve got a routine going, you can gradually work up the time you spend exercising to 30 minutes a day.
6. Focus on strength: Try and do some strength training at least twice a week, as it can improve the control of blood sugar levels. Whether you choose to do exercises without equipment, like push-ups, lunges, and squats, or to lift weights or extend resistance bands, if you feel your muscles burning or aching then you know they’re being worked.
7. Regular is good: Making exercise part of your daily routine will help prevent low blood sugar, which is also known as hypoglycemia.
8. Prepare: It’s a good idea to do some preparation before you work out if you’re diabetic. Aside from the company, having someone around who knows what to do if your blood sugar gets too low can be useful. If you’re exercising by yourself, it makes sense to wear a medical identification tag or carry a card saying you’re diabetic, in case anything should happen.
9. Be particularly kind to your feet: Peripheral nerve damage is a potential problem with diabetes, so it’s important to wear good quality footwear suited to the sport you do. For example, don’t go mountain climbing in trainers or go jogging in deck shoes. Your foot needs the right type of support for any given activity and if it doesn’t get it, the chance of foot injury increases. Check and clean your feet daily and report problems to your doctor.
10. Water: Have a bottle of water handy, just in case.
11. Don’t ignore pain: Muscle soreness is normal, especially when you’re older, when you’ve been exercising for any length of time. However, if soreness turns to pain, stop. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something’s not right. Ignoring this signal and continuing to exercise risks seriously aggravating an otherwise trivial injury. Take things slowly and steadily and you’re unlikely to get hurt.