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Is Running Good for a Diabetic?

Physical activities like walking, regularly jogging and even running can enhance the body’s insulin sensitivity helping regulate the blood sugar level. However, there are things to consider when running a marathon or even a long distance race.

There are several important strategies to maximize performance and prevent unforeseen events such as a sudden dip or spike in blood sugar levels. Maintaining the right level of blood sugar without causing sudden spikes is one of the biggest concerns that people with diabetes face when they are exercising. It is important that people with this condition keep their blood sugar level stable during strenuous physical activity, by following a few important tips.

  1. Blood sugar levels must be checked before running a marathon. If the reading is <100 mg/dL before running, they must consume at least 30g of carbohydrates to prevent the incidence of hypoglycemia. And if the reading is >250 mg/dL, they need to wait for the blood sugar to drop below 250 mg/dL.

  2. They must carry glucose tablets or energy gels so they can boost their energy and glucose level, every five or six miles.

  3. Marathon runners with blood sugar problems must keep in mind another essential aspect - hydration. But consuming too much liquid can make digestion harder. Hence, frequent hydration in small amounts is considered best during marathons.

  4. It is good for diabetics to have a running companion who can administer first-aid when their blood sugar drops drastically.

  5. People with high blood sugar must carry their medical ID during the run, or at least a card with the name and the contact details of a friend or a relative. The card should also state that the person has diabetes.

  6. People with diabetes should avoid exercise if they are sick or have an infection.

  7. Diabetics must be cautious during physical exertion. They should slow down or stop the exercise if they experience dizziness, fainting, nausea, fatigue, or loss of muscle control.

  8. People with diabetes must reduce their long-acting insulin in the morning.

  9. Diabetes patients must carry a carbohydrate snack with them each time they run, to avoid a sudden drop in sugar levels.

  10. People on insulin should avoid injecting it on parts of the body like the thigh, which is subject to exertion during the marathon. Injection on thighs before running can cause increased and faster absorption of insulin, which could trigger hypoglycemia.

  11. A record of their body’s response when running should be made. It will help them get familiar with the highs and lows of blood sugar levels during a marathon. This data will help to decide on the right amount of medication, diet, and exercise required.

  12. Individuals with diabetes must discuss with their doctor on how to balance the right amount of medication or insulin, for the specific level of exercise they plan to do.

  13. Hyperglycemia (very high glucose level) can occur during a marathon or immediately after doing an exercise. It usually happens when the body does not have enough insulin before one could start running. Hence, carrying fast-acting insulin is recommended.

Running can be an ideal form of exercise for people with diabetes as it helps improve the body's sensitivity to insulin. This can be especially useful for people with type 2 diabetes to help combat insulin resistance. Also, a great benefit of running is that it can be tailored to one’s needs. With some practice, it will be possible to understand how the body responds to running, which will help to make some adjustments in the planning and follow all the necessary precautions to stay safe.

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