How Long After Eating Should a Child with Diabetes Exercise?

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for children with diabetes. 

Yet, you need to be mindful of the timing of exercise in relation to meals and insulin doses to avoid complications. 

It’s generally recommended that a child with diabetes wait at least 1-2 hours after eating before exercising. This provides enough time for the food to be digested and for insulin levels to be stabilized. Note that the amount of time required for digestion and insulin stabilization may differ for each child. 

Also, keep in mind that exercising shortly after eating can cause blood glucose levels to drop. But, exercising on an empty stomach or after a long fasting period can cause blood glucose levels to rise.

But let’s take a look at how exercise affects children with diabetes and what steps you need to take to ensure your child is safe during and after exercising.

What Happens to Blood Glucose Levels During Exercise?

During exercise, the body’s energy demand increases, affecting blood glucose levels. In general, moderate to vigorous exercise can lower blood glucose levels by increasing glucose uptake by muscles as well as the body’s insulin production. 

But, the effects of exercise on blood glucose levels can vary depending on the type and intensity of the exercise, and on your child’s fitness level. 

For example, endurance exercises such as running can have a longer-lasting effect on blood glucose levels. In contrast, resistance exercises like gymnastics may have a shorter-term effect. 

Children with diabetes need to check their blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise to ensure they are within a safe range. If blood glucose levels are too low before exercise, it may be necessary to have a snack or adjust insulin doses to prevent hypoglycemia

But, if blood glucose levels are too high before exercising, it may be necessary to adjust insulin doses or delay exercise until blood glucose levels are within a safe range. 

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What to do Before and During Exercise to Ensure Your Child is Safe

Low blood sugar can be a concern when children with diabetes exercise, especially if they have taken insulin or other glucose-lowering medications. 

To avoid low blood sugar while exercising, there are several steps parents can take:

1. Adjust Insulin Intake

Depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise, it may be necessary to adjust insulin doses to account for the increased energy expenditure. 

For higher-intensity exercises, such as soccer or basketball, it may be necessary to reduce the insulin dose or delay the timing of the insulin injection. 

For lower-intensity exercises, such as walking or yoga, it may be possible to continue with the usual insulin regimen.

2. Carry Snacks and Fluids 

It may be helpful to increase the intake of carbohydrates before and during exercise to help prevent low blood sugar. 

Make sure your child has a snack or drink before exercising or carries a quick-acting carbohydrate source, such as glucose tablets or fruit juice, to take while exercising, if needed.

3. Monitor blood glucose levels

If blood glucose levels are low before exercise, it may be necessary to have a snack or reduce insulin doses. If blood glucose levels drop during exercise, it may be necessary to stop and have a carbohydrate-rich snack.

4. Stay hydrated

Children with diabetes need to stay hydrated during exercise, as dehydration can affect blood glucose levels. Encourage your child to drink water or a zero-sugar sports drink before, during, and after exercise to help prevent dehydration.

It’s also important for children with diabetes to be aware of the signs of low blood sugar, such as dizziness, shakiness, and sweating. They should also have a plan in place for how to treat low blood sugar if it occurs. 

What to Do After Exercise

After exercise, children with diabetes need to take a few steps to help manage their blood glucose levels and recover from the activity. 

Some tips for what to do after exercise include:

1. Monitor Blood Glucose Levels

It’s important to check blood glucose levels after exercise to ensure they are within a safe range. 

If blood glucose levels are low after exercise, it may be necessary to have a snack or adjust insulin doses. If blood glucose levels are high after exercise, it may be necessary to adjust insulin doses or delay the next meal.

2. Rehydrate

Children with diabetes need to rehydrate after exercise to help replace fluids. Encourage your child to drink water or a sports drink after exercising to help prevent dehydration.

3. Refuel

Exercise can deplete glycogen stores and cause muscle damage. Children with diabetes need to refuel after exercising to help promote muscle recovery. 

4. Cool down

Children need to cool down after exercise to help their bodies recover and prevent dizziness or lightheadedness. Encourage your child to do light stretches or walk for a few minutes after exercise to help the body return to a resting state.

Is There a Best Time of The Day for Your Child to Exercise?

For children with diabetes, the timing of exercise can impact blood glucose levels and the risk of hypoglycemia

The best time of the day for these children to exercise is in the morning or early afternoon. This allows for better blood sugar control.

Also, it’s safest for them to exercise at a time when their blood glucose levels are within a safe range and when they have eaten recently. 

Note that exercise in the late afternoon or evening may lead to hypoglycemia during the night, as the effects of exercise and insulin can last for several hours after the activity has ended. 

But every child is different, and the timing of exercise may need to be adjusted based on individual needs and circumstances. Make sure you work with a healthcare team to develop a personalized plan for safe and effective exercise for your child.

How to Prevent Sport-Inducing Hypoglycemia During the Night

If your child exercises later in the afternoon or evening, here’s what you can do to prevent hypoglycemia during the night:

1. Monitor Blood Glucose Levels at Bedtime

It’s a good idea to check the child’s blood glucose levels at bedtime to ensure they are within a safe range. If blood glucose levels are low at bedtime, it may be necessary to have a snack or adjust insulin doses before going to sleep.

2. Have a bedtime snack

If your child tends to have low blood glucose levels overnight, it may be helpful to have a bedtime snack with carbohydrates. This can include a small serving of crackers, fruit, or a glass of milk.

Extra Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe While Exercising

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for children with diabetes. 

We’ve already gone through a few steps that will help keep your child safe while exercising. Monitoring blood glucose levels, adjusting insulin levels, and increasing the intake of carbs are a few examples.

But, here are a few extra steps you can follow:

1. Inform teachers and coaches

Make sure to inform your child’s teachers and coaches about his/her condition and any necessary precautions. This can include providing a list of emergency contacts and teaching them how to recognize and treat low blood sugar.

2. Wear a medical identification bracelet

Children with diabetes should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace to alert others to their condition in case any complications arise.

Final Thoughts

Exercising after eating can benefit children with diabetes if done in the right way and within a safe time frame. 

By now you’re probably used to closely monitoring your child’s levels during the day. It’s no different when he/she is exercising. With careful monitoring and guidance, your child can safely enjoy all the benefits of exercising. 

Just remember that each child’s response to food and exercise may be different. So, it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor to determine the best exercise regime for your child. 

Our app Gluroo can help manage your child’s exercise regime. By keeping a detailed log of your kid’s exercises and activities through the days, you’ll be able to see the effect each activity had on him/her. You’ll be able to determine what time of the day is best for exercise, based on how your child’s body responds to each activity.

By doing this and much more, Gluroo is making diabetes management easier for a lot of parents of kids with diabetes.

You can learn more about Gluroo here on our website or download it now for free!

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