The answer to this is yes, IF you do not manage your glucose levels. Dr. Ben Stutchbury, of the University of Manchester, states that exercise in patients with diabetes is very important but too much can be dangerous (The British Journal Of General Practice, August, 2016). This is due to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Often times I work out in the yard and suddenly I begin to shake and feel faint. I head inside the house and check my glucose level and its below 50. I quickly drink a glass of orange juice then wait 20 minutes for my glucose level to return to normal (between 70 and 120). Then I go back out and work in the yard again. I try to prevent this from happening but sometimes I don’t know I am doing something strenuous until I am. For example, working in the yard. There are times when I do not intend to work in the yard. I go outside to check the mail and I see a weed in the flowerbed. So, I pull it. Then I see another one. Then another. Then I get the yard container and pull weeds. Then I am raking. Then mowing… Then my glucose level drops and I need to eat or drink something… quickly. Below are five steps you can follow to make sure you are exercising but not to the point that your glucose level drops below normal. These five steps have helped me tremendously.
- Check your glucose level before doing anything strenuous.
If your glucose is normal drink a glass of juice or eat a bit if candy before doing something strenuous. Don’t over-do it! A little sugar goes a long way. An 8-10 ounce glass of juice or a half of a candy bar may be plenty. You just need enough to get through the activity.
- Check your glucose level throughout the activity.
If it is starting to get low, eat or drink something. I check my glucose level at least four times a day. More if I am exercising or doing something more strenuous. It’s never a bad idea to check your glucose level several times a day. During the summer I often put on a backpack and hike 2 to 3 days in the Cascade Mountains along the Pacific Crest Trail. I check my glucose level every two to three hours to make sure my glucose is stable and I bring carbs with me incase My glucose level drops.
- Work with your doctor
Dr. Stutchbury states that “the risks can be minimized or completely avoided by doctors, nurses, and patients working together to construct a plan of diabetes management before, during, and after the activity.” Communicating with your health professionals is the best way to manage exercise and strenuous activities. Your doctor may advise you to take less medication if you know you are going to do something strenuous.
- Keep an emergency supply of carbohydrates close.
My wife has a container in the house with a supply of candy in it and we always have orange juice in the refrigerator. It’s only for me and I only use it when I need it. It is not there as a late-night snack. It is for emergencies. If we are running errands I take something with me. We often get side tracked so if my glucose level starts getting low I have something to tie me over until we eat.
- Control your diabetes. Don’t let your diabetes control you.
I often do strenuous activities. Sometime it worries my spouse. But I will tell you what I tell her: ‘I cannot let this disease control me or limit my life style. I will manage my diabetes so that it does not manage me’. I diet. I exercise. I monitor my glucose levels. I manage my diabetes so I can live a long, happy life.
Source: Stutchbery, Ben, Diabetes: The Danger of Exercise, The British journal of general practice: The journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 2016, 66, 649, 427-427, England