Staying physically fit is a key component of good health for everyone as it helps control stress, support a healthy weight and even regulate blood sugar levels. For men and women living with diabetes, exercise shouldn’t be overlooked. As long as you work up to it, there’s no limit to the activities you can do—even strenuous workouts like running a 5K or other marathon are okay as long as you plan properly.
A note about safety
Prepping for a long workout or run takes planning and guidance from your healthcare provider. You can expect to make adjustments to your insulin and food intake while you are running, so talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about how you should do this and follow his or her recommendations. Don’t try to adjust your healthcare plan on your own.
Tips for running your 5K
● Avoid eating foods that will cause swings in your blood sugar. This means avoiding high carbohydrate foods like bagels, candy, and even some fruits. Complex carbohydrates like beans, nuts, and whole grains are better choices when consumed in moderation and alongside a source of protein.
● Check your sugar before, during and after a race. Keep up with your blood glucose numbers and be ready to treat any low numbers promptly to prevent hypoglycemia.
● Carry a glucometer with you at all times. Check your blood sugar as often as needed, especially if you begin to feel as though your sugar is low. You may also consider using a continuous glucose monitoring system, which allows you to monitor your blood sugar at regular intervals throughout the day, even while you are running.
● Try energy gels if your doctor approves it. Energy gels provide a source of carbohydrate that can be swallowed while running to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. Talk to your healthcare team before moving forward, though.
● Turn down or reduce your basal insulin dose. Some insulin pumps now have touch screen features that allow you set temporary basal rates with just a few taps. Make sure to talk to your doctor before doing so, but reducing your basal insulin may reduce your chances of hypoglycemia.
● Carry emergency information and have a partner if you run longer than 60 minutes. Experts say that if you plan to run an hour or less, you should be fine to go it alone. Just make sure you have a medical ID, carry glucose tablets, and emergency contact information.
● Stay hydrated. High blood sugar raises the risk for dehydration. Remember to drink plenty of water as you run, especially in the summer months.
● Eat as soon as possible after your run. The effects of vigorous exercise won’t stop as soon as you do. Your risk of hypoglycemia can be higher for up to 24 hours after your 5K is over, so make sure to eat promptly after the race.
If you are interested in running, there’s no reason diabetes has to hold you back. Check with local running groups to learn more about participating in upcoming events, talk with your healthcare team, and then make a plan. It’s time to hit the road!