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Sports, Exercise, and Diabetes

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Ever hear of Olympic gold-medal swimmer Gary Hall? How about pro golfers Kelli Kuehne and Michelle McGann? Or NASCAR driver Charlie Kimball? Aside from being awesome athletes, these people have something in common — they all have diabetes.

Like anyone else, people with diabetes are healthier if they get plenty of exercise. They also have the same chances of excelling at sports. Whether you want to go for the gold or just go hiking in your hometown, your diabetes won't hold you back.

How Exercise Helps People With Diabetes

Exercise is an important part of managing diabetes and staying healthy in other ways. Here are some of the benefits of exercise:

All exercise is great — from walking the dog or riding a bike to playing team sports — just be sure to be active every day. Changing your exercise habits might be hard at first, but once you start feeling how exercise helps your body, it'll be easier to continue.

Exercise Tips

Your doctor will help you get ready to exercise or join a sport. These tips can help:

What to Watch For

When kids with diabetes exercise, a few things may happen in the body. They can get get low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia (say: hi-po-gly-see-me-uh). Or they can get high blood sugar, called hyperglycemia (say: hi-per-gly-see-me-uh).

You may have low blood sugar if you are:

You may have high blood sugar if you:

If you're starting a new exercise routine, like training for a sport, your doctor might have you change your insulin dosage to prevent these problems. Also, keep an eye on cuts, scrapes, or blisters and be sure to tell your parents or doctor right away if they're really red, swollen, or if they're oozing pus — they might be infected, which can make your diabetes harder to control.

Kids with type 1 diabetes shouldn't exercise if they have substances called ketones (say: kee-tones) in their blood. When this happens, exercise can make things worse, and you can get very sick. Your doctor will tell you how to figure out if you have ketones, treat this problem, and get back on track.

Your doctor will also write down what you should do if any problems happen. For example, you might need to take a break, drink water, or have a snack. If you notice any of these signs, stop exercising and follow your instructions.

You're All Set!

Your doctor says it's OK and you know how to take care of your diabetes. You're all set to get plenty of healthy exercise. Now get moving!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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