Sport is a repeated physical activity of greater or lesser intensity that involves energy expenditure by the metabolism. Physical activity has been found to be beneficial for both cardiovascular health and mood, and is essential for the treatment of diabetes, as it intervenes in the metabolism by burning sugar while improving the action of insulin.
In turn, thanks to physical activity, the patient will need less insulin or medication. Blood glucose levels are therefore better and more stable.
As with any physical activity, it may involve some muscular or cardiac risks that require some precautions to be taken.
Should the sport to be practiced be chosen?
In the case of a patient with balanced diabetes, in principle the patient can practice any sport as long as he/she is motivated and physically prepared.
In the case of endurance sports, it is easier to manage them, since their effects on blood glucose levels can be better predicted. Thus, the more regular the sports practice, the easier it is to predict its evolution.
However, some sports can be dangerous when practiced alone, such as diving or mountaineering.
Is there a sport for each type of diabetes?
In the case of diabetes that is treated only with diet or hypoglycemic drugs, it is not necessary to take special precautions. Sometimes the patient is even overweight, so movement and sports are perfect for improving the patient’s physical condition. The patient is hardly exposed to hypoglycemia.
Diabetes that is treated with hypoglycemic drugs that can cause hypoglycemia, even if it is controlled, can cause hypoglycemia due to excessive exertion.
In the case of insulin-treated diabetes, it should be mentioned that blood glucose is a balance between physical activity, diet and the amount of insulin, so if the effort increases, blood glucose drops. The patient will have to find a solution for the activities he/she is doing, by reducing the insulin dose, consuming more sugars…
The ten commandments of the diabetic athlete
Before starting to practice sports, it is recommended that the patient undergo a medical check-up to evaluate the possible appearance of complications derived from diabetes. A number of factors should be taken into account:
- Retinopathy can be aggravated by intense exertion.
- Neuropathy can lead to sores and blisters on the feet.
- Coronary heart disease can be aggravated by stress.
The following is a decalogue of several points that a diabetic should take into account if he/she is going to practice sports:
- He must train periodically and progressively
- He must check his blood sugar frequently, i.e. before, during and after exercise.
- He must take carbohydrates every few minutes, i.e. every half hour or every full hour.
- You should drink frequently, even before you feel thirsty.
- The sports equipment used must be of good quality, especially the footwear
- Special attention should be paid to the feet, which should be kept clean and dry. Maintain proper foot hygiene and avoid at all costs the appearance of blisters or wounds.
- Avoid overstepping your limits
- You should warn other people accompanying you or athletes that you suffer from diabetes. In case of hypoglycemia, stop exercising and take carbohydrates. If necessary, you can drink a sugary beverage.
- Learn how to manage your treatment according to the type of sport you are doing.
Practicing a sport when you have diabetes helps to balance it, but it must be practiced without risks, so:
- You must undergo a medical check-up before starting the activity and then regularly thereafter.
- Develop a knowledge of the principles of the activity.
- Adapt to the exercise
- Maintain proper hydration