Exercise impacts everyone with diabetes differently, so there’s no one type of movement that is best. The key to a great T1D workout is feeling empowered to understand your unique physical response to exercise and make choices to support your needs. This will likely involve building confidence to adjust your insulin rates, playing with meal timing, and expanding your knowledge of hormones. From there, we believe that it’s your body, your rules.
Whether you were diagnosed as an adult and are afraid you’ll never be able to get back to the marathon running you loved, or you are a parent of a young child and worried about their dreams of playing collegiate sports, know that nothing is impossible! A quick Google search will show you that there are pro athletes with diabetes everywhere, succeeding at everything from football and baseball to mountain climbing and Indycar racing. Diabetes doesn’t have to limit you.
You might be surprised to learn that the best workouts for someone with diabetes have similar qualities to the best workouts for people without diabetes. Here are our top three tips for finding your best workout:
- Holistic approach: For better or for worse, T1D can definitely serve as a lens through which to see the body as the integrated system that it is. Diabetics know that beyond insulin and carbs, our blood sugars are also influenced by stress, sleep, hydration, hormones, and so much more. Use these factors to guide your choices when planning your workouts. High stress week? Go for low impact yoga or pilates. Had a great night’s sleep? Go for a run or crush your favorite HIIT circuit!
- Sustainability: Do what you love! Willpower can only get you so far. Choosing movement you truly enjoy will feel like less of a task and more of a joyful part of your day that you will want to keep consistent. If you struggle to stay motivated, ask yourself: what do I want to get out of my workout? Mood, energy, confidence, accomplishment, or insulin sensitivity are all outcomes of your movement that have nothing to do with sweat, time, speed, or calories.
- Strength training: Incorporating strength training into your routine, rather than exclusively focusing on cardio, can help you build lean muscle mass which will increase your insulin sensitivity. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the squat rack each time! You can build strength with your own body weight (think squats, lunges, and pushups), resistance bands, or free weights. It all counts.
If you are frustrated by diabetes getting in the way of your sweat sesh or interrupting your favorite activity, slow down in order to speed up. Track your blood sugars around exercise so that you can identify a pattern and experiment with solutions. Get curious about what your outcomes can be, not what they are.
In the end, the best workout for someone with diabetes is the workout that makes you feel your best, and that’s totally up to you each and every day!
Check out this post for more ways to manage your blood sugars during exercise.