Type 1 Diabetes & Exercise

May 19, 2020

Have you ever wondered how to manage fluctuating blood glucose levels during exercise if you have type 1 diabetes?

If you are someone who has type 1 diabetes, fluctuating blood glucose levels could be due to the intensity of exercise. Dr Carmel Smart is a practitioner and clinical researcher who is internationally recognised as a leader in nutrition and type 1 diabetes. Dr Carmel Smart has shown that exercise of an anaerobic intensity (such as weightlifting and sprinting) can lead to an increase of blood glucose levels. While aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking or cycling) can decrease blood glucose levels. These altering blood glucose levels have the potential to cause hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, respectively. The following flowchart outlines the guidelines for blood glucose levels when exercising for people with T1DM:



The following graph demonstrates why it is important to properly monitor blood glucose levels while exercising. The graph also demonstrates that snacking regularly during prolonged exercise for people with type 1 diabetes can keep blood glucose levels more consistent.



If blood glucose levels are high, low to moderate intensity exercise can help to reduce levels (e.g. brisk walking and cycling). If blood glucose levels are low, ingesting carbohydrates (such as milk) increases glycogen, aids muscle protein synthesis, and rehydrates the body post exercise.
However, if you are seeking individualized advice for managing type 1 diabetes, please seek out a medical professional (such as a dietitian or exercise physiologist).

Information adapted from the conference ‘Getting into the Game: Tips for Nutrition and Exercise’ presented by Dr Carmel Smart, 2019