Being Active


There are heaps of reasons why it’s good to be active. Regular exercise can help you to:

  • Be a healthy weight
  • Be happy, relaxed and sleep better
  • Grow and develop well
  • Feel good, inside and out
  • Be coordinated and flexible
  • Make new friends and be a team player

The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that you get at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity and spend no more than 2 hours on the computer, playstation or watching TV each day.


Physical activity can help with managing diabetes and keeping blood glucose levels (BGLs) mostly in the normal range. Exercise usually lowers BGLs by making your body more sensitive to insulin. Sometimes BGLs may be higher before and after exercise because of other hormones released during the activity.
Rises in BGLs during exercise are usually temporary and may be followed by lower BGLs and the risk of delayed hypos, up to 12-16 hours later.

There are some important things you need to think about before, during and after exercise, like…

Blood Glucose Testing

Testing tells you more about your body and how it responds to exercise. Your BGL test results can help you to work out how to adjust your diabetes plan for different activities. It’s important to test before, during and after the exercise.


You will usually need to adjust your insulin dose before and possibly after exercise. This will depend on factors such as type of activity, duration and your individual response to the activity. Discuss insulin adjustments for physical activity with your parents and diabetes team.

It’s not a good idea to give insulin into an exercising muscle as it’s absorbed more quickly and may increase the risk of hypos. The abdomen (stomach area) is the best place to give your insulin.


You may need extra carbohydrate foods before, during and after physical activity. This depends on things like BGL before exercising, type of activity, duration, your individual response to the activity. A good guide is to have one extra serve or exchange of carbohydrate for every 30-40minutes of exercise. Lower GI foods such as fruit, yoghurt, milk or raisin toast before exercise can help maintain BGLs during physical activity.


Hypos or low BGLs can happen as a result of extra activity. It’s important to make sure that you have a hypo kit handy when you’re exercising. \Your teachers and sports coaches need to be aware of the risks of hypos during and following sport and allow you to treat immediately and re-treat if necessary.

Delayed hypos can occur up to 12-16 hours after exercise. To prevent delayed hypos, it’s important to ensure that you eat additional carbohydrate following the activity and that your bedtime BGL is above 7mmol/L. Overnight testing is also a good idea after strenuous physical activity.

Lowering your insulin dose, having extra carbohydrate foods and regular blood glucose testing can reduce the risk of hypos.

Physical Activity & High BGLs

If your BGL is above 15mmol it’s really important to test for ketones – either by urine with a urine test strip or if you have an Optium meter, you can test your blood ketones. If you have ketones or are you are unwell then you shouldn’t play sport or do strenuous exercise. Having ketones means that you need more insulin – discuss this with your diabetes team.

If your BGL is over 15mmol, with no ketones and you’re not unwell, it’s OK to do some low or moderate intensity exercise (eg. walking, tennis) but not strenuous exercise like a game of competitive football or basketball. It’s a good idea to check your BGL again in 1-2 hours to see if it’s come down.

High Risk Activities

There are some activities that need a cautious approach if you’re a teenager with type 1 diabetes. These include:

  • Sports which are solo in nature
  • Activities which take place in a potentially dangerous environment such as mid air or in water
  • Those which limit your ability to recognise and self treat hypos

High risk activities include rock climbing, flying, abseiling, car and motorbike racing, skiing, swimming, surfing and snorkelling. Teenagers with type 1 diabetes should be able to participate in these activities with careful planning.

At present, it’s recommended that people with type 1 diabetes should not participate in scuba diving, solo hang-gliding or solo flying.


If you’re finding it hard to get the motivation to get off the couch, here’s some ideas for getting more active…

  • Turn off the TV
  • Don’t spend too much time on the computer or play station
  • Walk the dog
  • Walk to and from school (if possible)
  • Try a new sport like dancing, netball, swimming, athletics, cricket or soccer
  • Do active stuff with your friends, like shooting a few baskets
  • Try something different like roller blading or beach volleybal
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