Exercise: Critical for Type 1 Diabetics
This blog post is going to describe how exercise plays a key role in my ability to manage Type 1 Diabetes without medication. Before I jump into my exercise routine, I wanted to share with you my most recent blood sugar test results.
My Most Recent A1c Test
Every 3 months I get an A1c test, which is a barometer and industry standard for how well a diabetic is controlling their disease. The A1C test reflects your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. The results can be interpreted as such:
A1c < 5.7 = non-diabetic
A1c between 5.7 and 6.4 = pre-diabetic
A1c > 6.5 = diabetic
My most recent reading was 5.6 in late February 2016, which is a non-diabetic reading. Not bad after 26 months of being a T1D without medication. I put links below for my fasting blood sugar charts since I became diagnosed and also over the past 3 months. I will start to include this data quarterly after my most recent A1c test is completed.
Back to exercise…I have always been an active person. I played all types of sports growing up, and I played football and ran track in college. For those of you that know me, you know I hate losing, and I’ve always enjoyed competing.
Me Against the Medical Community
In a sense I feel like it’s a David vs. Goliath scenario between me and the medical community. Here I am, one individual, saying and achieving things that are seemingly completely off the radar of the vast majority of diabetic doctors throughout the world.
I feel like it’s so wrong that the medical community does not inform each and every T1D patient of this alternative method of treatment that could potentially eliminate their need for countless insulin injections. More than anything, this dynamic truly drives my motivation to share my story.
I will say that I don’t believe the medical community is negligent towards their patients, but it does puzzles me why this is not discussed more with T1Ds. I’ll get into this more in another blog post…
Why Exercise is Important for T1Ds
I’m sure nearly everyone reading this blog already knows that exercise is an important component to an overall healthy lifestyle. However, for us T1Ds, it’s even more critical. Staying fit and active makes it easier for us diabetics to control our blood sugar levels and it increases our insulin sensitivity. In other words, after exercise, a T1D’s body is able to more efficiently process carbohydrates.
Additionally, there are all the traditional benefits of exercise including lower blood pressure, better control of weight, leaner, stronger muscles, stronger bones and more energy.
Rigorous Exercise Is Important but Not Enough
I am a huge advocate of exercise, however, as a T1D it is much more critical to effectively watch what food I eat as opposed to the amount of exercise I do. You can be a triathlete, but if you are eating the wrong foods, you have no prayer of staying off of medication for an extended period of time as a T1D. In my opinion, staying off medication as a T1D is probably 85% food choice and 15% exercise routine.
I’m not trying to downplay the powerful effects of exercise, but merely provide a road map for what needs to be a priority for other T1Ds if your goal is to stay off of medication.
Soon after diagnosis, many of the more motivated T1Ds (like myself) implement an extremely strenuous and intense workout routine in an effort to keep their blood sugars low during their honeymoon period in an effort to remain off of insulin for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, most T1Ds are uneducated about what types of food you really need to put in your body, and they remain on an animal-based diet (like myself at first). Inevitably, their bodies end up needing insulin to combat their rising blood sugars once the honeymoon period is ending. For me, my honeymoon period appeared to be ending around 9 months post diagnosis. At that point I implemented the raw / plant-based diet and it has successfully regulated my blood sugars ever since.
Added Worries for Insulin Dependent T1Ds
Intense workouts for T1Ds on insulin also adds the risk of experiencing hypoglycemia or aka the “lows”. Since exercise naturally lowers one’s blood sugar, if a T1D is not careful and injects an excessive amount of insulin prior to a workout, they run the risk of their blood sugars dropping to dangerously low levels.
Now for me, I don’t have to worry about any of that since I’m not on medication. I really only have to worry about high blood sugars.
My Personal Weekly Workout Routine
I thought it would be informative for other T1Ds if I laid out my workout routine. As you’ll see below, I do exercise alot, however, it’s certainly not an unrealistic amount for the average person. Once you get in the rhythm of an exercise routine, you’ll feel great about keeping it going.
Monday – I typically run ~2 miles around my neighborhood. If it’s too cold outside, I’ll sometimes go to the gym and do the elliptical for 30 minutes.
Tuesday – I do upper body weight training for 20-30 minutes with resistance bands in my basement.
Wednesday – I play racquetball for an hour at the local gym. Racquetball is an excellent workout that really gets the blood pumping. It’s also keeps the competitive juices flowing and it’s fun!
Thursday – I do a lower body workout. My wife bought the T25 video collection that has a lower body focus session.
Friday – I play racquetball for an hour at the local gym.
Saturday – I play racquetball for an hour at the local gym.
Sunday – I do nothing!! In my opinion, it’s important to give your body a days rest each week to recover. I’ve pretty much done this my whole life.
In summary, I workout 6 days a week, with 4 being cardio focused and 2 being strength / weight training focused. This was actually my similar routine before I was diagnosed, so I really didn’t change much after I became diabetic. I did become slightly more disciplined though once I was a T1D because it’s in the back of my mind.
A Consistent Exercise Routine is Realistic for All
Now, I understand many people might think it’s unrealistic to exercise like this 6 days per week. You may be right. However, I will say that I manage doing all of this with a full-time job, running a part-time real estate business, being a husband to my wife and a father to a two year old and a two month old.
Considering everything I have on my plate, I am forced to do my workouts in the morning before work. I would highly suggest morning workouts as opposed to evening or even mid-day. Things always pop up, and the longer you delay your workout into the day, the greater likelihood you’ll find an excuse not to do it.
In conclusion, I understand my routine might be unrealistic for most people, but it works for me. Exercise is critical for a T1D if you want to try and stay off of medication. Besides racquetball, most of my workouts are 20 minutes long. All you really need to do is get the blood pumping each day. I wouldn’t stress about staying on an intense routine that is too time consuming and unpractical, it’s more about just staying active.