When it comes to sports and exercise, there’s no reason why your child with diabetes should sit on the sidelines – if he is otherwise healthy. In fact, you should encourage your child to be active because there are many benefits associated with exercise.
By exercising, your child can:
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Control her weight
- Have more energy and endurance
- Boost his heart health
While exercise has many positive effects, it can also pose difficulties for a child with diabetes, unless certain precautions are taken. The main concern is very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). To prevent this problem:
- Talk with the adults in charge of a sport or activity (such as gym class) so they know what kinds of precautions should be taken. It’s important to communicate with teachers, coaches and classmates.
- Have your child wear diabetes identification.
- Check and record your child’s blood sugar before and after exercise. If an activity lasts more than an hour, check blood sugar in the middle of the activity.
- Do not let your child exercise if her fasting blood sugar level is above 250 mg/dl and ketones are present.
- Your child can exercise cautiously if his blood sugar level is above 300 mg/dl and no ketones are present. Monitor his glucose frequently.
- After prolonged or especially intense exercise, check the blood sugar level before sleep and in the middle of the night. Hypoglycemia can occur 12 to 18 hours after strenuous exercise.
- If your child’s blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dl prior to exercising, have her eat a carbohydrate-rich snack beforehand. Good snack choices include ½ cup juice, 1 cup light yogurt or 6 pretzel rods.
- Have your child eat carbohydrate snacks during activities that last more than an hour.
- Make sure your child drinks water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
In case your child could use some inspiration, tell him about the many professional athletes who have type 1 diabetes. Some of them include:
- Golfer Scott Verplank, 5-time PGA Tour winner
- Quarterback Jay Cutlerof the Chicago Bears
- Guard Kendall Simmons of the Pittsburgh Steelers
- Outfielder Sam Fuldof the Tampa Bay Rays
- Pitcher Mark Lowe of the Texas Rangers
- Small forwards Adam Morrison and Gary Forbes of the NBA