How to Exercise Without Getting Hypoglycemia

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Ideally, you should be doing some type of physical activity every day. However, because of the reactions between exercise and blood sugar, Diabetics have to plan the balance between when they exercise and when they eat carefully.

Exercise often lowers blood sugar, and if you don’t plan your diet to adequately compensate for this, it can result in a hypoglycemic episode. This happens because exercise increases insulin sensitivity, and also because muscles that are active take in more glucose and use it to perform the exercise, so sugars aren’t building up in the blood. If you are on an insulin pump you can account for this by decreasing your basal rates, however, if you are not on a pump you will likely need to account for this by eating something before, during or right after you exercise.

Several things can make a hypoglycemic episode more likely, including:

  • Exercising on an empty stomach

  • Skipping a meal earlier in the day

  • Exercising for a long amount of time

  • Exercising strenuously

  • Taking insulin before exercise

If you tend to go low before or after exercise a good place to start is by snacking on 15 grams of carbs before the planned activity. Some snack ideas include:

  • ½ banana

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread with 1 TB peanut butter

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries

  • Homemade trail mix: ½ cup granola, 1TB raisins, 10 Almonds

It is also important to note that a blood sugar drop can occur several hours after exercising. Therefore, it is better to maintain the same diet pattern and not skip meals or snacks before  or after exercising.

To ideally plan a great exercise regimen, you should:

  • Be prepared with supplies (glucose tabs) to treat hypoglycemic episodes.

  • Test blood sugar often, and definitely before and after exercise.

  • Avoid doing other things that also lower blood sugar before you exercise, for example alcohol and hot showers.

  • Do not plan to exercise during the peak effectiveness of your insulin.

  • Drink lots of water