Physical activity is an important part of diabetes management, and warm weather makes for a great opportunity to get outdoors and try new forms of exercise. Biking, hiking, and swimming are great outdoor activities to enjoy during the spring, summer, and early fall months.
But warmer climates and excessive heat can cause challenges for those with diabetes. In this article, we’ll discuss how to stay physically active outside while safely managing your diabetes diagnosis.
Talk to Your Doctor About How to Adjust Insulin Doses for Heat and Exercise
In order to manage blood glucose levels, you need to know what they are. When exercising, especially in the heat, it’s important to monitor glucose levels closely. Devices such as a insulin pumps that work with a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device to deliver hundreds of glucose readings a day to the user. These readings help you to quickly recognize the possibility of entering into hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (dangerously high blood sugar). There are modern, touchscreen pumps that will even predict low blood sugar and adjust insulin to help keep you from going low, which can be especially helpful during exercise.
Before heading out, talk to your doctor about how to best manage your blood glucose levels in the heat and while exercising.
Know the Limits of Your Insulin Pump and Diabetes Supplies
Both extreme cold and extreme heat affect the potency of insulin as well as the performance of devices like insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors.
Some insulin pumps are water-resistant or can even survive an accidental dip into water that is up to three feet deep for a limited amount of time. If you don’t have one of these and you’re planning water activities, such as kayaking or white-water rafting, your options are to:
Disconnect from your device for a short amount of time, according to instructions given to you by your doctor. During this time, you may need to administer insulin injections.
Purchase a waterproof case or bag for your device that allows you to manage blood glucose levels when you’re doing something that may involve splashing.
If you’ll be swimming, it’s recommended that you disconnect from the device, as even waterproof cases or watertight insulin pumps can start to allow water in after being submerged for a certain amount of time.
When disconnecting from your pump, it’s important to place the pump in a shaded, cool area to prevent it from overheating. Follow all instructions given to you by your doctor regarding how to disconnect and reconnect your insulin pump.
Protect Yourself from Overheating and From Sunburn
A study conducted in 2011 suggests that people diagnosed with diabetes are more susceptible to the negative effects of extreme heat that occurs with heat waves. An increased number of people with diabetes visit the hospital in greater numbers when the weather is warmer.
Sunburn can cause your body to release stress hormones that increase blood glucose levels. Protect yourself from excessive sun exposure and sunburn by wearing a hat, applying sunscreen, and protecting your eyes with sunglasses. Warmer weather can also put you at a greater risk of dehydration, another risk factor that contributes to the sudden increase in blood glucose levels.
Consult with Your Diabetes Care Team for Specific Instructions
Talk to your doctor about how to safely manage your diabetes diagnosis in the heat while being active. They will advise you on how to best manage blood glucose levels, use your device with warm weather activities, and avoid health complications associated with a hot climate.