Activity and exercise

Activity benefits everyone. It helps to maintain a healthy weight, strengthens your bones, improves your blood pressure, lowers your risk of heart disease, and relieves stress. 

This section includes the principles and general guidelines for type 1 and activity, learning how it affects your blood sugars and how to compensate for the affect.

Discuss your physical activity plans with your health care team before you start and learn the steps to follow, to ensure you are safe.

All activity is exercise and some activities typically drop your blood sugars such as shopping, cleaning, gardening, snow shoveling, walking, sexual intimacy and sports such as swimming, tennis, jogging and more. Do not take insulin for the snacks that you take to compensate for the activity.

Some activities may actually increase your blood sugars temporarily due to a “stress response” and possibly also from eating low carbohydrate and lack of glycogen stores.  Be very careful when taking extra insulin to correct these highs as it is common to have delayed lows many hours after exercise.

General guidelines for type 1:

  1. Clinical practice guidelines suggest a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity exercise plus resistance exercise three times a week to increase muscle strength.  Consult with your doctor if you have any concerns prior to starting a new exercise program.
  2. Do not exercise within the first 1-2 hours after a bolus of insulin if possible.
  3. Check your blood sugar before starting. If low, have a quick carb and snack as per protocol (refer to this Hypoglycemia handout). If high (16mmol/L and no ketones or 14mmol/L with ketones) do not exercise until you get your blood sugar down and no longer have ketones or it may raise your blood sugar.
  4. Check blood sugar during exercise, after exercise and possibly every two hours if you are trying to see patterns.
  5. Have a snack or drink Gatorade as needed and consider both the duration and intensity of the exercise. For more on this, see the carbohydrate and insulin adjustments.
  6. Remember to take care of your feet.


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