Exercise and Your Child
Exercise and team sports will help your child to stay fit and healthy and will help them with their social skills. Having diabetes should not prevent them from taking part in these activities.
Many famous sports people, including Sir Steve Redgrave, have achieved great success despite being diagnosed with diabetes. To ensure safe participation in team sports, it is extremely important to plan ahead and educate your child’s coaches or team mates on some of the risks with blood glucose levels.
Exercise will lower your child’s blood glucose so they will need to test their blood before and after playing any sport. It may even be necessary to check their glucose level during the activity itself to avoid lows that result from continued exertion.
If their pre-sport sugar level is too low they may need to eat a snack beforehand or even during the activity to prevent them from having a hypo. They should wait until their blood glucose level returns to normal before starting or resuming the activity.
If their sugar level is too high, they should check for ketones as exercise may make their level rise and they could develop diabetic ketoacidosis.
You or your child should let their teacher or coach know how to spot the signs of a hypo and they should also be taught how to help your child in that situation.
Your child should continue to check their blood glucose levels often after exercising, as the effects of exercise on their blood glucose can last for up to 24 hours.
Before your child starts a new exercise regime, talk to your diabetes team to check if it is suitable. Remember:
- Exercise needs to be regular - little and often is far better than infrequent and strenuous
- Set achievable goals - start slowly and build up gradually
- If ill or injured, your child should not exercise
- Always have carbohydrate snacks easily accessible when your child exercises
- Your child should test before and after activity
This will help you spot if hypoglycaemia is a risk. If the activity is prolonged, for example playing a football match, test at half time too, or if the family is going on a long walk, take the testing equipment with you
- With increasing fitness
Increasing fitness may mean that the insulin dose may need to be decreased or more carbohydrate eaten before exercise. Look out for patterns in the test results which might indicate the need to make changes, for example an increasing number of hypos
- Watch out for delayed hypos
After vigorous exercise your child may get a delayed hypo any time in the following 36 hours. So increase the testing frequency, make sure he/she is always carrying some carbohydrate and consider a bedtime snack just in case