Exercise is good for you

By | 4 August, 2010

Exercise, yesterday

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:

  1. Exercise reduces insulin resistance/increases insulin sensitivity. (Something to do with Fatty Acid Metabolism. Look it up.)
  2. 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.)
  3. Exercise increases muscle mass, which uses up more energy when being used than when in its resting state. (Er, yes…)
  4. Exercise is ‘known to be effective in managing blood glucose’. (So you do something, and your bg goes down. Thanks for that.)
  5. Exercise can improve your circulation, especially in your arms and legs, where people with diabetes can have problems. (Now that’s an interesting one.)
  6. Exercise can help reduce your cholesterol and high blood pressure. (True. But also true for non diabetics.)
  7. 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…

10 thoughts on “Exercise is good for you

  1. Cecile

    What’ll Nursie say about showering? I’ve ended up doing a few dying swans on the bathroom floor after not feeding my insulin some Jelly Tots beforehand. It’s not exactly as taxing as swimming, but you do end up godly clean – except this morning in hospital, when I went for X-rays after ablutions and ended up soaking Radiology’s improper gown in sweat, and robbing them of a delicious yellow sweet. Oh, and hanging up washing is another trivial activity that sends me plummeting…which leaves Bicycle safely chained up in the garage, dreaming of its past glories (daily 24km-to-school-runs and one 100km Cape Argus tour 2 years prior to diagnosis)

  2. katherine cromwell

    Never had hypo when hanging washing on a line. Whats the secret? Do you have to have a rotary line or just a line with a pole? Have fewer hypos now when exercising due to control of pump. However, I find it a mine field to boost my bg when hypo and having just exercised. Actually does any one else find that when faced with a hypo and stood in a sweet shop that they can’t make a sensible choice and enjoy what they choose?

  3. Cecile

    @mustard: Thanks for evoking a wonderful image of using my twirly-whirly washing line as Maypole and the laundry as lints, but my body seems to consider the mere movement of lifting a few wet rags above my head as akin to running a marathon. As far as selecting antidote when befuddled, I’ve made some very disappointing choices myself…life is elsewhere (sigh). Also easier if someone else chooses for you (then you can blame them for those 2 packets of horrible, bouncy teddybears you’ve just swallowed…)

    1. Cecile

      Please replace Dutch “lints” with English “ribbons”…though lints would explain my linty laundry and the need to vigorously groom it afterwards (and maybe adds to my laundressic energy expenditure).

  4. Annette A Post author

    Hanging out the washing never affected me, nor showering. If I’m on the edge of hypo to start with, going up stairs can send me over the edge. (That’s one flight, 13 steps, going upstairs to get my meter/lucozade/whatever – fine at bottom, gibbering wreck at top.). Going food shopping, well that’s another story – I always eat extra before I enter the supermarket, or else I invariably find myself in the middle of an aisle, clutching a shopping list, going ‘errrr….’, and its not because I’m not sure what variety of baked beans to buy!
    My brain seems to have a hypo overriding love of Wispa bars. Doesn’t seem to matter what else is there, I always end up with a Wispa. (Thank God they came back! I was lost for years whilst they stopped making them!)

    1. Cecile

      When attending the diabetic clinic (on 7th floor), topsy-turvy me have used the stairs a few times – with BGs overambitiously ending up above 10 and blood pressure soaring to 150/100 (I’ve never thought of then walking down to ground level and ascend by lift, to end up euglycaemic…or just use the lift and stuff the stairs…drat!)

  5. Tim

    Rather than as a result of exercise, I always get terrible hypos in John Lewis. It’s made me rather afraid of shopping there now…

  6. katherine cromwell

    No @Tim think of all that lovely food you could try whilst needing to sit down in the cafe/restaurant area (heaven) Must try that tomorrow if we go to Southampton!

  7. Rohan

    Couple of little problems with the post…
    2- I find if you do the same exercise regularly, you get a good feel of how to control your BG for it. I cycle to work everyday, it’s only 5 miles, and it’s fairly flat, but when I lived in Cardiff I quite happily trekked off on 30-50 miles rides. Yes, I took lots of glucose tablets and a packed lunch, but I got to do the rides, which I loved. Indeed, I am so used to cycling regularly that last winter when I got lots of lifts in from a friend I found it really difficult to get my BG under control! Don’t let diabetes take the fun away from you! Just experiment with ever increasing distances/decreasing amounts of food and you’ll be fine! 🙂

    3- Did you mean to say ‘muscle uses more energy at rest’? As increased muscle mass does exactly that – burns more energy even when resting! Or so I’ve read, anyway…

    7- not a problem as such, more a tip: there’s no need to go climbing without a rope – try leading a climb! That’s where you are attached directly to your belayer, and clip the rope in to the wall as you go up – leading to bigger falls (still safe, obviously) and lots more excitement! xD

  8. Annette A Post author

    @neobrainless – re 2- if u do the same exercise regularly,your muscles get used to it,and you need less carbs for the same result-this effect disappears after you stop doing said ctivity, but the timescales involved vary from person to person. Re3- no,I meant what I said-I actually found this on an ‘expert health’ site on the internet. It was,needless to say, American…

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