Children with diabetes and physical activity: tips for parent and children

02 November, 2015

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Exercise is an important part of any diabetes treatment plan. The benefit of exercise is an accepted fact that applies to both children with diabetes and to those who do not have it.

To avoid any potential problems, parents and coaches need to help the child exercise at the best level possible and avoid any potential diabetes related problems that may arise.

Parents need to give sufficient information to coaches and caretakers regarding the diabetes management of their child.

Prior to starting an exercise program, the child need to check with their physicians to ensure overall good health and that there are no underlying health problem that may affect the type and length of exercise which is possible.

Before Exercise:

  • Child needs to avoid injecting his/her insulin into the muscle that is to be exercised. (i.e. the thigh muscle before running)
  • Time the exercise so the insulin peak action time is avoided; due to the fact that the peak action time of insulin may be compounded by a natural increase of insulin absorption due to the increased blood flow in the skeletal muscle and the increased temperature of the whole body.
  • Help the child check their blood sugar level before work out.  If the level is less than 100mg/dl, have the child eat a snack such as a piece of fruit or a few crackers. If it is higher than 250mf/dl they need to delay exercise until it comes down.
  • If the blood sugar level goes below 70 mg/dl, the child will need to stop exercising and treat the low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Hypoglycemia treatment is:
    • Take 15g simple sugar such as a tablespoonful of sugar dissolved in water, 1/2 cup of juice, three dates, 3-4 glucose tablet, or one tablespoonful of honey.
    • Wait for 15 minutes then test again if it is over 70mg/dl eat a snack and wait until the blood sugar level go up because the possibility of another hypoglycemia episode is still there.  
    • Test 15-30 minute later. Don't start exercising until your blood glucose is above 100 mg/dl.
  • Avoid Exercising for a long time if possible; otherwise the child needs to test at one hour into the exercise to ensure that there is no hypoglycemia.

During Exercise the child needs to keep some rules in mind:

  • Always keep some form of sugar (glucose) handy in case you get hypoglycemia during exercise. Such as juice, glucose tablets, or hard candy.
  • If you start having any symptom of low blood sugar levels; stop exercising and check your blood glucose. If it's not possible to check your blood glucose, treat your symptoms as if you are having hypoglycemia and check your blood glucose as soon as you can.


After Exercise:

The resulting effect of exercise can be that sugar is being utilized efficiently and hypoglycemia can occur within 20 to 60 minutes after the onset of exercise. The child will need to:

  • Test their blood sugar level after exercise by one hour at least.
  • If they exercise in the evening, make sure to check the blood sugar level before going to bed and perhaps in the middle of the night.

Each child, parent, coach or any other care taker need to have good information about the type of insulin the child takes, dose and times of insulin injection and the peak time for the insulin in order to help avoid hypoglycemic episode during exercise and ensure safe and healthy exercising.



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