Patient Guide to Managing Your Child's Type 1 Diabetes

Physical Activity for Children with Type 1 Diabetes

Exercise's Effect on Your Child's Blood Glucose

Children, regardless if they have type 1 diabetes, need to be active. Teaching the importance of exercise and physical activity early on will form healthy habits that will serve your child well into adulthood. But physical activity also impacts blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, and as a parent, you need to know how to respond to these changes. This article explains how to incorporate physical activity into your child's routine and keep his and her blood glucose level within a stable range.

Children with type 1 diabetes can and should be encouraged to play.Summer time means more outside play, and that holds true for kids with type 1 diabetes. Gaining comfort in adjusting insulin needs to activity levels will be a benefit to everyone. Photo: 123rf

For people with diabetes, being active provides a slew of important health benefits. These include lowering blood glucose levels and improving your body's ability to use insulin.

In essence, exercise helps your child control his or her diabetes. And in the long run, this will reduce the chances of your child experiencing certain health problems related to diabetes. You can read more about the benefits of physical activity for people with type 1 diabetes in our article about exercise and type 1 diabetes.

Activities for Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes
Being active is most beneficial when it's done on a regular basis. That's why you should find out what activities most interest your child. If your child actually enjoys the activity, then it greatly increases the odds that he or she will continue to participate.

If your child is interested in sports, then sign him or her up for a school or summer sports league. But don't worry if your child doesn't want to participate in an organized activity. Your child can be just as active in your own backyard as on a sports field. Encourage your child to play outside with friends, ride a bike, or walk the dog.

Also, take advantage of the many opportunities you have each day to set a good example for your child. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you live a short distance to shops, then opt not to drive and walk with your child instead. Go on a walk together after dinner. Although they aren't intense bouts of exercise, these activities will help form healthy habits that make a difference.

The ultimate goal is to get your child moving. A good guideline to follow is that your child should get 1 hour of physical activity in each day1. That might sound like a lot, but remember, it doesn't have to be strenuous activity.

Blood Glucose and Physical Activity
Physical activity can cause blood glucose to drop. If your child's blood glucose level falls too low, it can cause hypoglycemia.

Here are a few ways you can help lessen the effect of physical activity on your child's blood glucose level:

  • Give your child extra carbohydrates, such as Gatorade, before the activity.
  • Check your child's blood glucose level before, during, and after the activity.
  • Prepare a kit that contains snacks, glucose tablets, fruit juice, water, and any medications that your doctor recommends for your child to take to practices and games.
  • Be sure to check blood sugar levels more frequently after the activity and overnight to assess if insulin doses need to be adjusted.

If your child is in organized sports, make sure the coach knows that he or she has diabetes. Explain to the coach how to respond if there's a problem related to your child's condition.

Also, your child should wear a medical identification bracelet that alerts others to your child's diabetes, should an emergency occur. Your child should wear this bracelet at all times, not just during exercise and physical activity.

Though there are precautions you need to take, it's important that your child engages in regular physical activity when he or she has type 1 diabetes. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks, so don't be afraid to encourage your child to exercise and be physically active. With the proper preparation, your child can fully enjoy the same activities as every other kid.