Hypoglycemia and Exercise

Hypoglycemia and ExerciseExercising with diabetes is a huge challenge, particularly if you take insulin. However, we cannot deny the plethora of health benefits of exercise. Just like in the general population, exercise is important. Sadly, a lot of people with type 1 diabetes are insufficiently active.

Type 1 diabetes is associated with a 10 times increase in cardiovascular disease compared to non-diabetics. This is according to a 2003 paper by Laing et al. Although exercising with this condition comes with the risk of altered blood sugar levels, it is still encouraged but with the right type of exercises.

Many diabetics worry about hypoglycemic episodes that can be caused by exercise. But it’s still possible for these people to be active (and even excel in their preferred sport) with the help of careful monitoring and right advice.

Diabetes should not be a barrier that prevents people from getting active. Health care professionals have a role in encouraging them to exercise and performing them safely.


Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas secretes little or no insulin, a hormone that allows glucose to enter cells to produce energy.

In people with type 2 diabetes, physical activity improves their sugar and cholesterol levels, reduces weight, and improves insulin resistance. However, the case is different in people with type 1 diabetes. Sometimes they experience a drop in blood glucose during or after exercise, which is why it is important for them to monitor their blood glucose, take proper precautions, and be prepared to treat hypoglycemia.

Exercise-induced hypoglycemia is the most common problem among exercising diabetics. Hypoglycemia or low blood glucose is more likely to occur with exercise because of several reasons. These can be:

  • The body burns up glucose to release energy
  • The cells of the muscles become more sensitive to insulin for up to 12 to 16 hours following exercise, particularly after very intense or prolonged exercise
  • Muscles that are used in the exercise can keep on using glucose without insulin
  • Extra glucose goes away from the bloodstream to replace liver and muscle stores

Can People with Type 1 Diabetes Still Exercise?

Exercise is an absolutely vital in all people, including diabetics. Whilst it helps you a lot in improving your overall health, for people with diabetes, the biggest benefit for them is that they can control their condition better and prevent long-term complications.

Exercise can benefit people with type 1 diabetes because it increases their insulin sensitivity. This means that after exercise, your body doesn’t need as much insulin to process sugar.

If you have type 1 diabetes, these tips may help:

  • If you’re new to a physical activity or sporting programme and you’re new to managing your diabetes during physical activity, seek help from a diabetes specialist before starting.
  • If you have complications such as heart disease or kidney problems, see a healthcare professional before planning an exercise routine.
  • When you’re starting out with an exercise routine, start small then gradually increase your activity.

Remember to always stay within comfort zone when doing physical activity. Exercise is great but doing it with caution is better!  Call us today at 9444 8729!