If you’re a family caregiver to an older adult with diabetes, you’re probably aware that exercise is considered one of the key aspects of blood sugar management. However, you may not know that when people with diabetes exercise, there are extra safety steps they need to take.
Why Exercise is Important
Exercise, of course, has a lot of benefits for overall health. It can lower blood pressure, help with weight management, and strengthen muscles, among many other benefits. For people with diabetes, it has additional benefits, including managing blood sugar levels. Exercise helps to use up blood sugar to give the body the energy it needs for increased physical activity. It also helps to lower the risk for heart disease and stroke, which is increased in people with diabetes.
Check Blood Sugar Often
It’s important for older adults with diabetes keep a close eye on blood sugar levels when they exercise. Of course, if your aging relative hasn’t exercised regularly in the past, it’s important they be checked by a doctor before beginning. The doctor can suggest forms of exercise that are safe for the senior as well as offering advice on when to exercise and how it may impact blood sugar.
Once the older adult has been approved for exercise, they should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Because exercising lowers blood sugar, the older adult should check their blood sugar 15 to 30 minutes before they start exercising. Here’s what they need to know about pre-exercise levels:
- 100 mg/dL or Lower: This may be too low to exercise. The senior should eat a small snack with between 15 and 30 mg of carbohydrates.
- 100 to 250 mg/dL: This is a safe zone for most people to exercise.
- 250 mg/dL or Higher: The older adult may be unsafe for exercise. Before exercising, they should check for ketones in their urine. If ketones are present, try to correct the high blood sugar before the older adult exercises.
Seniors with diabetes may need some assistance or reminders to exercise safely. Home care services can help. A home care services provider can remind the older adult to check their blood sugar both before and after exercise to make certain it stays in a safe range. If blood sugar is too high or too low, the home care services provider can help them to take the appropriate steps, such as eating a snack or reminding them to take medication. Home care services providers can even help seniors to exercise by driving them to the gym or an exercise class or by monitoring exercise at home.