Activity and Exercise
We all know that children love to run around – you probably get all the exercise you need just keeping up with them! This is great news for them as keeping fit and healthy can be an important part of managing diabetes and preventing long-term complications.
Remember that your child doesn’t have to be doing formal exercise like a PE lesson or a game of sports for it to have an impact on their blood glucose level. Even activities like a long walk or a bike ride will make a difference.
Having diabetes is not a reason to keep your child from being active and having fun. There are just a few simple points that you need to be aware of to make sure your child stays safe and healthy.
Points to remember
- Check your child’s blood glucose. Aim to keep it between 6-10mmol/L or as advised by their diabetes nurse.
- Your child shouldn’t exercise if he or she feels unwell, if their blood glucose level is high (i.e. more than 15 mmol/L) or if it is too low (i.e. less than 4 mmol/L).
- Make sure that your child’s insulin dosages and carbohydrate intake are adjusted to account for the activity they are going to do. Your nurse will advise you on how to do this.
- Make sure your child has a sugary drink or glucose tablets readily available in case their blood glucose level falls.
- Your child should drink a mixture of sugary drinks (e.g. cola, lemonade) and water throughout.
- Give your child a sugary drink and water immediately following the activity.
- Make sure your child has a sugary drink (like cola or lemonade) or glucose tablets readily available in case their blood glucose level falls after activity.
- Check your child’s blood glucose. Aim to keep it between 6-10mmol/L or as advised by their diabetes nurse. If your child was undertaking vigorous activity, you will need to test their blood glucose frequently in the time afterwards. If they have hypoglycaemia 4–8 hours after exercise, it is probably due to the exercise. If this happens, you will need to discuss it with your child’s diabetes care team who can help you take steps to prevent this happening in future.
Top tips for managing activity
- Talk to your child’s diabetes care team about your child’s planned levels of activity; they can advise how best to manage insulin doses and carbohydrate intake
- Although regular exercise will have a key part to play in improving diabetes control, don’t forget that other factors like insulin intake and diet will also be important
- Always ensure that your child has some quick-acting carbohydrate readily available when they are exercising in case of hypoglycaemia
- Your child should not undertake any activity if they are unwell as this may affect their diabetes management
- Exercising during hot weather will increase the risk of hypoglycaemia as the body’s needs for energy are greater at this time. Make sure your child keeps a close eye on their blood glucose levels during activity on a hot day.
- Arrange a meeting with your child’s PE teacher to make sure they know how to manage your child’s diabetes during planned and unplanned activity