Rest assured that, as a person with diabetes, you can enjoy a bike ride, just like any other physical activity. It boosts the heart rate, increases lung capacity, and burns calories. Exercise, by making the body's tissue more sensitive to insulin, is also a natural way to help control blood glucose levels.
Whether you're riding for fun or to work out, keep these 7 tips in mind:
Check glucose levels before the ride. Dr. Michael Riddell, associate professor at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University and type 1 diabetic, recommends that before you hit the trail, you test your blood glucose twice, about 20 minutes apart. This is especially true for those who are on insulin or sulfonylureas. (Sulfonylureas increase the amount of insulin that the pancreas produces.)
Eat a carbohydrate snack to boost blood glucose before beginning your exercise.
During the ride, test your blood glucose every 30 to 40 minutes or as recommended by your doctor. Make adjustments as needed.
Pack food so that if your levels get low, you can eat on the go. Bring along your insulin in case your blood sugar spikes. Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. For intense cyclists who participate in races, you might have to force yourself to eat something since there's no time-out to adjust blood sugar.
Listen to your body. Learn the signs and symptoms of high or low blood sugar so you can be proactive. For some people, when muscles cramp or they experience jaw pain, they know their levels are getting too high. When legs feel "disconnected," they may be dropping too low.
Monitor blood glucose after the ride. Your blood sugar may be affected for up to 12 hours after your ride, so continue checking afterward.
Have a cell phone on you and tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning, especially if you're cycling by yourself.