Get Moving! New Physical Activity Guidelines! (Part 4)

This week, we’ll wrap up our series on exercise. I hope that at least some of this information has been useful and relevant for you, with the belief that physical activity is one of the cornerstones of diabetes self-management.


Exercise and Hypoglycemia
One potential concern or barrier that some people have when they commit to an exercise program is hypoglycemia[1] (low blood glucose). Hypoglycemia is defined as a blood glucose level under 70 mg/dl. Typical symptoms include shakiness, sweatiness, anxiety, hunger, and irritability.

Not everyone with diabetes is at risk for hypoglycemia, however. Those who are include people who take insulin[2] and people who take certain types of diabetes pills, such as the following.



You have practically no risk of hypoglycemia if you take metformin alone, however.

Remember that physical activity lowers blood glucose by enhancing the action of insulin. In other words, when you’re exercising, insulin helps your muscles and cells use glucose for fuel, thereby lowering the amount of glucose in your blood.

You can see why exercise is so beneficial for blood glucose control. However, if your insulin or diabetes pills are “peaking,” or working at their hardest, there’s a very real chance that your blood glucose will drop too low, either during or after exercise. In fact, hypoglycemia may occur up to 24 hours after you’ve stopped exercising (called the “lag effect”); this happens because your muscles draw glucose from your blood to replenish their glycogen[4] (glucose) stores.

To make sure you stay safe while exercising, here are a few pointers for lowering your risk of hypoglycemia:

Ideally, your blood glucose should be above 110 mg/dl after exercising. If it’s below 110, you’ll need to eat another 15 grams of carb.

Easy Ways To Be Active
Now you’re armed with all sorts of information: why you should exercise, what and how much to do, how to start safely…still not quite ready? That’s okay. Remember, it’s fine to ease into it. Here are some suggestions that might get you started and motivated enough to take it to the next level.

You can probably think of some other ways to be active, too.

If you’d like to check out the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, here’s the link:[5].

I’ll end with a quote from Dr. Elliott P. Joslin, 1924:

“It is better to discuss how far you have walked than how little you have eaten.”

  1. hypoglycemia:
  2. insulin:
  3. Sulfonylureas:
  4. glycogen:

Source URL:

Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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