Summer Sports: Fair Game for Diabetes

Make summer activities safer and more enjoyable with these tips.

Ask a golfer walking the fairgrounds what he’s doing. Chances are he won’t say “exercising.” Same goes for someone trying to perfect her tennis serve. Sports like tennis, golf, biking, and skiing are all fair “game” for most people with diabetes. Heed a few words to the wise to get the most out of them and make them safer and more enjoyable.

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”1. ” image_url=”” title=”Take turns riding in the golf cart.” ] Walking for the duration of your golf match will give you the most aerobic exercise, of course. But some walking is better than none. If you need to ride a cart at least part of the way, strike a deal with your partner to alternate who gets to drive, and who gets to walk. For instance, you might ride in the cart while playing one hole, and your partner would ride during the next hole.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2. ” image_url=”” title=”If you’re playing all 18 holes, prepare yourself for blood sugar swings.” ] Before you start a round of golf — or any other sport that will keep you moving for the better part of the afternoon — be ready with a glucose meter, carbohydrate snacks or glucose tablets, and any medicine you might need to keep your blood sugar in the safe range.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3. ” image_url=”” title=”After squash, check for rising glucose.” ] Don’t assume that all types of exercise will lower your blood sugar. In some people with diabetes, high-adrenaline sports, or any very strenuous exercise, can actually raise it. That’s because adrenaline causes the liver to release more glucose to supply the body with a burst of energy. The effect does wear off, of course, and you should be ready for a possible drop in blood sugar up to several hours after you’re done exercising. Regular testing — before, during, and after exercise — will help you determine how to manage your blood sugar levels with food, glucose, or insulin. [/step-item]

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”4. ” image_url=”” title=”Before a tennis match, inject insulin into your abdomen, not your tennis arm.” ] During heavy exercise, blood flow increases in the appendages that are working hard. If you inject insulin into a hard-working appendage, the insulin will be absorbed into the body more quickly, and it may lower your blood sugar more quickly than you were expecting. Same goes for runners — don’t inject insulin into a leg before you hit the bricks.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5. ” image_url=”” title=”Play on clay, not asphalt or concrete.” ] Tennis can be tough on your hips, knees, ankles, and back. The repeated impact against a hard-court surface can leave your joints sore and your feet battered. Asphalt and concrete courts are the worst offenders. Studies show that clay courts have the lowest injury rates — they’re softer, allow a little sliding underfoot so there’s less shock to the feet, and they slow the game down to a less hectic level. New synthetic court surfaces provide cushioning that protects your joints, too — you can feel the surface give underneath your feet when you walk on it. Natural grass courts (like those at Wimbledon) are softer but have a high rate of injury because the speed of play is faster on grass.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6. ” image_url=”” title=”Make sure that your diabetes gear is secure when bicycling long distances.” ] Zippered pockets, a zipped-up backpack, and saddlebags with snug closures are good bets. You don’t want to find yourself five miles from home on your bicycle and in need of a snack to keep your blood sugar up only to find that your food slipped out of your pocket.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”7. ” image_url=”” title=”Don’t dally on hot surfaces.” ] If you have reduced feeling in your feet, take care not to stand too long on sun-heated surfaces such as hard-surface ­tennis courts, concrete pool areas, asphalt, and sand. Even through footwear, your feet could get burned without you knowing it. [/step-item]

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”8. ” image_url=”” title=”Carry insulin and other gear under your ski jacket.” ] To prevent your test strips and the insulin in your pump or vials from freezing while you are skiing, stash them close to your skin under your ski pants or jacket. One simple way to do this: Wear shorts that have a secure pocket under your ski pants, and slide your insulin and test strips into the pocket to keep them out of the deep freeze.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”9. ” image_url=”” title=”Buy custom-fitted ski boots.” ] If you love skiing and you have reduced feeling in your feet, buy your own ski boots and take care that you get them fitted properly. When you rent ski boots, your odds of getting an excellent fit are awfully low. And if you’re wearing ill-fitted boots and you have reduced sensation in your feet, you might not realize that your feet are being rubbed raw. If you have impaired circulation in your feet, ask your doctor whether skiing could cut off circulation to your feet or put you at risk for frostbite.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”10. ” image_url=”” title=”Wear sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection.” ]
Good sunglasses will protect your eyes from glare as well as the damaging rays in sunlight, which can contribute to cataracts — and people with diabetes are already 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than people who do not have diabetes.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”11. ” image_url=”” title=”Carry a doctor’s note clearing you for ‘extreme’ sports.” ]
If you love some of the wilder sports such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, or sky­diving, take along a letter from your doctor stating that you are cleared for the activity. The operators of such sporting facilities often will ask whether you have diabetes and may refuse to admit you unless you can provide a doctor’s approval. Without such a letter, you may end up cooling your heels for a few hours while your friends have the time of their lives.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”12. ” image_url=”” title=”Join a team.” ]
Whether it’s tennis, volleyball, basketball, badminton, or paintball that floats your boat, get on the Internet and find a local team or league to join. Team sports not only boost fitness but self-esteem, too. And they’re harder to quit than activities you do by yourself. [/step-item]

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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