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Exercise for Diabetic Kids

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 20 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Diabetic Kids Diabetic Kids And Exercise

Diabetes in children is not uncommon but when you are the parent of a diabetic child, it can feel as though you are the only one who is dealing with the disease and all of the worries that can come with it. Exercise for the diabetic child requires planning, but being active is important for all children, diabetics included. In fact, when included as part of an overall health plan, exercise can make diabetes much easier to manage.

Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise offers many benefits, improving both short and long term health, and for diabetic kids, exercise may truly be a lifesaver. Some of the major payoffs of an active lifestyle include:

  • Exercise can help with blood sugar control because it makes insulin work more efficiently in the body.
  • Activity helps to keep weight in check, which is especially important for diabetics. Carrying excess body fat has a negative impact on insulin’s ability to control blood sugar.
  • Exercise improves strength, agility, and coordination, as well as boosting energy.
  • The health benefits of staying fit are well documented. Not only will active diabetic kids feel better now, they are improving their long term heath, too. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
  • Exercise helps to reduce stress and manage anxiety. Diabetic kids may worry about their condition, but regular exercise empowers them by offering a concrete way to improve their overall health.

Getting the Go-Ahead for Fitness

It’s vital for diabetic kids to have a doctor that encourages their natural desire to be active. Kids who are planning to dramatically increase their activity level (by joining a sports team at school, for example) should revisit their doctor for advice on diet and insulin, taking care to strictly follow the recommendations. Parents play an important role in helping their diabetic children to be confident and enthusiastic about exercise and sports. Even if they are a bit nervous to let their kids participate, parents should refrain from passing their anxieties onto their child, who may then become fearful and avoid activity. Diabetic kids deserve to join in with peers as much as they are physically able – it’s not only physically beneficial, but enhances their social lives, as well.

Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels while Exercising

Exercise has a definite impact on blood sugar levels, so diabetic kids and their parents need to educate themselves about keeping glucose within a healthy range. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can both pose problems, so balancing food intake, activity, and insulin is crucial for diabetic kids. Hypoglycemia can occur during or after an exercise session as the body uses up stored sugar. Indications of hypoglycemia include shakiness, weakness, sweating, lightheadedness, anxiety, hunger, and mental confusion. Severe cases can result in fainting or seizure, kids should make a practice of keeping a snack on hand to boost their blood sugar level, should the need arise.

Exercise Tips for Diabetic Kids

Specific instructions regarding each individual child’s diabetic management plan should come from their doctors, but some general guidelines will apply to all diabetic kids:

  • Be sure to take insulin on the recommended schedule.
  • Test blood sugar levels frequently. Some doctors will ask that kids test their glucose level before a workout or game so that they can eat and/or medicate properly and then test again after the activity has ended. Of course, if a child experiences any symptoms during activity, they should stop, test their level, and take the steps necessary to correct any problems.
  • Kids need to understand the importance of following their doctor’s dietary recommendations. If they are instructed to adjust their meal plans to accommodate the added activity, it is vital that they do so to safeguard their health. Snacks and water should always be kept on hand for diabetic kids.
  • Supplies, such as a diabetic testing kit, written health plan and emergency contact information, as well as insulin and snacks should go along with diabetic children to workouts and games. Coaches and others who may be in charge should be made aware of a diabetic child’s condition so that they can offer assistance if needed.

Staying Fit & Healthy

Fit, active kids are happier and healthier than their sedentary peers. Like all kids, those with diabetes should be encouraged to eat well, exercise, and have fun with their friends. As long as they are careful to monitor their blood sugar levels and take steps to keep them within healthy ranges, diabetic children should be allowed to participate in active play and organised sports. Diabetic kids are, after all, first and foremost, kids.

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