Controlling Blood Sugar with Limited Exercise

Posted by matt on Tue, 02/26/2013 - 10:00 in

Matt Neal is a BMX racer with type 1 diabetes. He has raced all over the country after getting into the sport at age 10. Matt was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009 at the age of 28. He has not let diabetes slow him down. He used the knowledge he gained while studying exercise science to manage his blood sugar and get back on his bike. He won the second national event he raced in after his diagnosis and has not looked back since. Matt wanted to show others living with diabetes that they are still able to do the things they want to so he founded Type 1 BMX, a BMX team with racers all over the world living with type 1 diabetes.

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I have been very active my entire life—whether it was playing baseball when I was a kid or riding my bike as a BMX racer. My love for exercise is what got me into the fitness industry. To say that I believe exercise is a valuable tool to manage blood sugar levels is an understatement! I use my riding and gym workouts as part of my regular glucose management routine. So when I broke three of my fingers in a bike crash last August it made managing my diabetes much more challenging. Not only did I have three fractures, but I also had some pretty severe soft tissue damage which required physical therapy and a lengthy recovery time. As a result, I was very limited in what I could do physically for several months and I let my A1C slip from 5.9 to 6.5.

While 6.5 is a really good average blood sugar to have, I was still frustrated that it had gone up so much. Being a racer all of my life has made me pretty competitive so I used the frustration to get back on track. I took a good hard look at my blood sugar numbers to see when I was having higher blood sugars. I realized that I was more likely to run high at night after my dinner. So I adjusted my basal rates and often used a temporary basal rate after a high-fat meal. This came in very handy as I was healing up over the holidays with all of the extra “good stuff” around every corner.

I focused on taking it one blood sugar reading at a time and doing the best I could at each meal. There was definitely some trial and error. I had a tendency to over-correct in the beginning – I was too aggressive with my boluses and temporary basal rates and I ended up low. Too often this leads to the roller coaster of too much insulin, low blood sugar, too many carbs, high blood sugar, too much insulin, etc. I don’t know about you but I’m not a fan of that trend! More practice and more data helped me to figure it all out.

Lessons Learned from Managing Diabetes with Limited Exercise

The 90-day average on my glucose meter today is 115. I seem to have it figured out now. However, I am back on my bike riding again so I need to go back to my regular routine. I am very happy that I am able to get back on my bike and can use the exercise as a tool to manage my glucose levels again. I love it when I look at my readings for the day and have a great average glucose – and only need less than 25 units of total insulin for the day!

The lesson that I learned from this experience is that life is full of changes and many times these changes impact my diabetes. I should have been more proactive and made the adjustments to my routine sooner to preserve my A1C. While I hope to stay healthy and active to avoid going through this again, at least I know how to handle it next time if I do run into another injury.