Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes

Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes

It is a well known fact that regular physical activity is associated with a plethora of health benefits for individuals with type 1 diabetes. Improvements in cardiovascular health, reduced insulin requirements, improved body composition and better quality of life are all related to regular exercise. However, it must be noted that people living with Type 1 diabetes must take extra precautions when exercising due to the increased risk of hypoglycemia and even hyperglycemia.

In this weeks article we take a quick look at some of the most common forms of exercise that are beneficial for individuals living with Type 1 diabetes.

Anaerobic Activities

The key difference between Aerobic and Anaerobic exercise is that during Aerobic exercise, oxygen is used in combination with fat and glucose to fuel muscles. However, during high intensity exercise, adequate oxygen is unable to reach the muscle groups and therefore only glucose can be used to fuel muscles - this is called Anaerobic exercise and it can be easily distinguished by a ‘burning’ feeling in the muscles due to the formation of lactic acid, which is caused by the previously mentioned lack of oxygen.

According to the American Diabetes Association, regularly partaking in anaerobic forms of exercise such as weight lifting, sprinting, and high-intensity interval training can reduce the risk and severity of diabetes complications.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 

HIIT involves short bursts of intense activity alternated with short rest periods. According to PubMed Center, such workouts are very time efficient. HIIT often ranges from 10 to 30 minutes in duration, but can actually produce similar health benefits to moderate-intensity exercises in just half the amount of time. Furthermore, Diabetes Spectrum also suggests that HIIT is far more effective at maintaining healthy blood glucose levels than moderate or low-intensity exercises. These type of workouts have also been proven to increase metabolism for hours after exercise. A study also found that HIIT continues to improve blood glucose levels from one to three days after the initial workout. 

Yoga

Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for everyone, including people living with Type 1. It is known to elevate mood, reduce stress levels, strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance. Individuals with Type 1 understand that stress and diabetes burn-out are a real problem that can negatively impact one’s mental health. Yoga can be a great way to destress and apply mindfulness in daily activities to reduce the mental burden of Type 1 diabetes. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Science also suggests that Yoga is one of the most effective forms of exercise to deal with anxiety and depression. 

Group Fitness Activities

The benefits of group fitness activities can be more than just physical. Socialising in a positive environment can release endorphins and significantly boost one’s mood. The Journal of Osteopathic Medicine also states that people who work out in groups feel a lot less stressed and a lot more motivated than people who work out alone or those who don’t exercise at all.

Online At-Home Workouts

However, for those who prefer to work out in their own space and can stay actively motivated, online workouts are a great way to keep fit. At-home workouts through youtube or virtual fitness programs have become one of the top fitness trends in recent years and now even more so due to COVID19. Such workouts are especially helpful for individuals with Type 1 diabetes who feel worried about checking their blood sugar while working out in a gym, going for a run or even in group settings. Workouts at home can be very comfortable for some people as they have access to all their medications, food, and loved ones who know the symptoms of low blood glucose levels. 

Additionally, wearable technology like fit bits and activity trackers are a great way to record daily activity levels, and studies prove that in some cases, they can also help people stay motivated to exercise and live a healthier lives. 

These are just a small selection of the many activities that can be beneficial for Type 1 diabetes. We recommend finding an activity that you enjoy and integrating it into your daily life where possible. The benefits to physical, mental and spiritual health are amazing. Please keep in mind that we do suggest speaking with your health care providers before changing up your workout routine or trying something more demanding.