Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks beta cells within the pancreas, stopping the pancreas from functioning properly and producing Insulin. Insulin is a vital hormone responsible for regulating blood glucose within the body. The cause of T1D is unknown, however it is not as a result of lifestyle factors like T2D and it cannot be cured. Although T1D is not caused by lifestyle choices, a healthy lifestyle can help people to live well and reduce the severity of some symptoms and complications.

T1D represents around 10-15% of all Diabetic cases and approximately 120,000 Australians live with this condition. It is usually diagnosed during childhood. If T1D is left untreated or unmonitored, serious complications can arise such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve problems effecting the eyes and limbs, diabetic ketoacidosis and persistent infections. It is important that Type 1 Diabetics manage their condition very closely and seriously.

Type 1 Diabetics cannot produce their own Insulin so it needs to be provided via an insulin injection or an insulin pump. Without insulin, the body is unable to break down glucose consumed in food, which is a main energy source used by the body. If blood glucose levels become too high, there is a risk of developing hyperglycaemia. If the body does not have enough Insulin to break down glucose for energy, it will start to break down fat, creating Ketones. This can become dangerous as the level of Ketones increase in the blood stream, potentially causing ketoacidosis. Both hyperglycaemia and ketoacidosis pose serious health problems and is potentially life threatening if left untreated.

Exercise benefits everybody. Specifically for Diabetics it is an important part of the treatment management plan. Exercise helps insulin to work more effectively and maintain a healthy blood glucose reading. It helps to regulate a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve fatigue and stress relating to the management of diabetes.

Diabetics should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day; this can even be broken down into 3 x 10 minute blocks across the day. Exercise should be of moderate intensity, and a mix of aerobic and resistance type exercises. Some considerations of exercise include:

  • Monitor blood glucose levels before and after exercise to check for hypoglycaemia.

  • Drink extra water before and during exercise to avoid dehydration.

  • Bring an extra serving of carbohydrates in case exercise induces hypoglycaemia.

  • Check your feet before and after exercise to make sure there are no ulcers or signs of infection.

  • Most importantly, discuss an insulin injection plan with your GP for before and after exercise to ensure healthy blood glucose readings throughout your exercise session.

Start your exercise program slowly and under the guidance of an Exercise Physiologist to ensure exercise doesn’t worsen the condition or create further complication.

Remember, exercise is medicine and should be an integral part of a diabetic management plan!

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