Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.

The funny thing about being on insulin is that most of the education focuses on adjusting your doses for the food you eat. Not much attention is given to your physical activity, but exercise also has a strong impact on insulin absorption! 

We all know that physical activity impacts blood glucose levels. But think about it: Which blood glucose meter has an easy method for entering your exercise into the meter’s memory? Which insulin pump incorporates an exercise adjustment into the dosing process? How many logbooks include sufficient space for recording physical activity?

According to expert Certified Diabetes Educator and author Gary Scheiner, this lack of attention to physical activity in determining insulin doses is a real problem because exercise strongly affects both hormone levels and your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

When your activity increases, you usually need to reduce your mealtime (or “bolus”) insulin dose. When you are less active than usual, your bolus dose might need to be increased. Unfortunately, there aren’t any good tech tools yet for pre-programming these bolus adjustments.

If you’re using an insulin pump, however, you can actually increase or decrease your background (or “basal” insulin) for short periods of time by using a feature called “temporary basal rate.” Getting the adjustment just right for any particular physical activity takes some trial and error. And even when using this tool, it’s always important to carry fast-acting carbohydrates and other snacks and supplies when exercising.

Whether you’re on an insulin pump or not, Gary says the job of anyone taking insulin is simply to THINK ACTIVITY every time you make an insulin dosing decision. Sure, it’s one extra step. But you’ll probably find it easier than counting carbohydrates!

Has frequent exercise made a difference in your insulin usage? Let us know how in the comments below.

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