Diabetes and Exercise

older people at the gym

Take the Diabetes and Exercise quiz.

Test your knowledge about how exercise can help people with diabetes.

The benefits of exercise include:

All of the answers are correct. Aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, swimming and cycling, has a long list of health benefits. Other benefits include reduced body fat, preserved bone mass and improved circulation.
Exercise also has possible risks and it is important to discuss your exercise regimen with your medical team before starting. Possible problems include:

All of the answers are correct. It is critical to discuss your exercise regimen with your medical team prior to starting a new activity.
Generally speaking, aerobic activity will lower blood sugars and the more vigorous the activity, the more likely it is that this will occur. However, many activities of daily life will also increase insulin sensitivity. Activities that may cause low blood sugar reactions include:

All of the answers are correct. Both aerobic exercise and daily life activities can increase insulin sensitivity and decrease the blood sugar. These activities may require reducing the dose of diabetes medicines, and may require consumption of extra carbohydrate to keep the blood sugar stable. Consult your medical team for specific questions regarding your activity.
Even if you are unable to do vigorous aerobic exercise, it is important to increase your general activity level. Examples of how to do this include:

All of the answers are correct. However, the best answer is "All of the above".
If you are taking insulin and/or pills that cause insulin to be released from the pancreas, there are several questions you should consider each time before starting exercise. These include:

All of the answers are correct. These are all important issues to consider in order to exercise as safely as possible. The goal of reviewing this checklist prior to exercise is to ensure predictable blood sugars during exercise and hopefully prevent low blood sugar reactions afterwards.
If you have a low blood sugar during exercise, what would be an appropriate food choice?

A low blood sugar should be treated with sugar (glucose or dextrose) or a readily absorbed simple carbohydrate (such as juice or fruit). If the food is high fat or oily, such as a chocolate bar, the stomach will empty more slowly and the absorption of the sugar is delayed. High protein foods, such as peanut butter, cheese or nuts, will not have a significant effect on blood sugar levels. And remember, do not take insulin to cover exercise-related snacks or snacks used to prevent or treat a low blood sugar.
Do you have type 2 diabetes and are treated with pills that cause insulin to be released from the pancreas? If not, click "Show Answer" to skip to the next question. If so, you are still at risk for low blood sugars. How might exercise affect your dose of these medications?

All of the answers are correct. However, the best answer is "All of the above".
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are treated with insulin, try this question. If not, click "Show Answer" to proceed to the next question. How does exercise potentially affect insulin requirements, both in the short and long term?

All of the answers are correct. However, the best answer is "All of the above". When you do aerobic exercise, insulin sensitivity generally increases, and if you are treated with insulin, you have a higher risk of low blood sugars. This can affect insulin dose requirements in both the short and long term.
Exercise done at the same time, duration and intensity on a daily basis will ensure the most predictable blood glucose responses.

No one day is ever the same, but doing exercise consistently will give the greatest opportunity for stable blood sugars. Remember, though, that other factors such as stress, illness or foods eaten that day will still have an effect.
Combining alcohol and exercise, such as when you go dancing and drinking, increases the risk of a low blood sugar.

Both activities promote low blood sugars, and when done together, can increase the risk as well as make it more difficult to correct if it does happen. Normally, the liver releases glucose to maintain blood sugar levels. But when you drink alcohol, the liver is busy breaking the alcohol down, so it does a poor job of releasing glucose into the bloodstream.


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