Exercise is good for you. Yes, I know, you don’t really want to hear it. When the DSN asks “Are you keeping active?” do your possible answers include:
- ‘Does walking from the sofa to the fridge count?’ No, she won’t buy that.
- ‘Of course I am, I walk to the pub every night!’ No, that’ll just lead to a lecture on drinking habits.
- ‘Not really – I mean, I do try, but I never have the time to do much on a regular basis.’ That’s what she expects.
- ‘Oh, absolutely. I go to the gym three times a week, go walking regularly, and am going on a week long cycling holiday in a couple of weeks.’ That’ll give an interesting reaction…
But to return to my original statement, why? What effect does exercise actually have on you, as a pancreatically-challenged individual? A quick search of the Internet gives the following suggestions:
- Exercise reduces insulin resistance/increases insulin sensitivity. (Something to do with Fatty Acid Metabolism. Look it up.)
- Exercise helps you to lose weight, or aids in not putting it back on. (Well, yes. Unless you have to eat loads before, so that you don’t go hypo whilst exercising. Surprisingly, that bit wasn’t mentioned anywhere.)
- Exercise increases muscle mass, which uses up more energy when being used than when in its resting state. (Er, yes…)
- Exercise is ‘known to be effective in managing blood glucose’. (So you do something, and your bg goes down. Thanks for that.)
- Exercise can improve your circulation, especially in your arms and legs, where people with diabetes can have problems. (Now that’s an interesting one.)
- Exercise can help reduce your cholesterol and high blood pressure. (True. But also true for non diabetics.)
- Exercise helps reduce stress, which may raise your glucose level. (Good point. But in some people, stress lowers their bg level. In which case, more stress during exercise is called for. Rock climbing without safety ropes, anyone?)
So it’s either really technical, basic common sense, or nothing to do with diabetes at all, but just good for the populace at large. And of course, everyone’s diabetes is different. Every type of exercise affects BG levels in different ways. Where and when you do any particular form of exercise, what the weather conditions are at the time, how long you partake for, all of which will necessitate a different approach – reduce basal rate by W% for X hours, eat Y grams carbohydrate without bolusing/at a bolus rate of Z% of usual (‘Okay, so I’m cycling for 5 hours, its hot, I ate 3 hours ago, the terrain is moderate to steep, I am intending on an average speed of 8mph, now where’s my calculator…’)
Exercise is good for you, providing you can work out your diabetic reaction to it and what you need to do in order to balance energy output to insulin and carb intake. Maybe it would be simpler just to go back to the sofa-fridge run. At least you know there’s carbs at the end of it…