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Useful tips for diabetics taking up long-distance running

By Apollo 24/7, Published on- 23 November 2020

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Physical activities like regular jogging and running can enhance the body’s insulin sensitivity and help regulate the blood sugar level. However, running a marathon or a long-distance race is a bit more complicated with several aspects that need to be carefully considered. In the case of diabetic people, preparation and training are very crucial. Such individuals must adopt a few important strategies to maximize performance and prevent unforeseen events, like a sudden dip or spike in blood sugar levels when running.

Tips for diabetic people running a marathon

Maintaining the right level of blood sugar without causing sudden spikes is one of the biggest concerns that people with diabetes face when they are exercising. It is important that people with this condition keep their blood sugar level stable during strenuous physical activity, by following a few important tips.
  1. Blood sugar levels must be checked before running a marathon. If the reading is <100 mg/dL before running, they must consume at least 30g of carbohydrates to prevent the incidence of hypoglycemia. And if the reading is >250 mg/dL, they need to wait for the blood sugar to drop below 250 mg/dL.
  2. They must carry glucose tablets or energy gels so they can boost their energy and glucose level, every five or six miles.
  3. Marathon runners with blood sugar problems must keep in mind another essential aspect - hydration. But consuming too much liquid can make digestion harder. Hence, frequent hydration in small amounts is considered best during marathons.
  4. It is good for diabetics to have a running companion who can administer first-aid when their blood sugar drops drastically.
  5. People with high blood sugar must carry their medical ID during the run, or at least a card with the name and the contact details of a friend or a relative. The card should also state that the person has diabetes.
  6. People with diabetes should avoid exercise if they are sick or have an infection.
  7. Diabetics must be cautious during physical exertion. They should slow down or stop the exercise if they experience dizziness, fainting, nausea, fatigue, or loss of muscle control.
  8. People with diabetes must reduce their long acting insulin in the morning.
  9. Diabetes patients must carry a carbohydrate snack with them each time they run, to avoid a sudden drop in sugar levels.
  10. People on insulin should avoid injecting it on parts of the body like the thigh, which is subject to exertion during the marathon. Injection on thighs before running can cause increased and faster absorption of insulin, which could trigger hypoglycemia.
  11. A record of their body’s response when running should be made. It will help them get familiar with the highs and lows of blood sugar levels during a marathon. This data will help to decide on the right amount of medication, diet, and exercise required.
  12. Individuals with diabetes must discuss with their doctor on how to balance the right amount of medication or insulin, for the specific level of exercise they plan to do.
  13. Hyperglycemia (very high glucose level) can occur during a marathon or immediately after doing an exercise. It usually happens when the body does not have enough insulin before one could start running. Hence, carrying fast-acting insulin is recommended.

Recommended footwear for diabetic runners

  • Diabetic people wanting to participate in a marathon must invest in a good and comfortable pair of soft shoes. The shoes must have durable straps to prevent the risk of tripping.
  • Choosing shoes that allow better circulation is advisable. The shoes must be flexible, comfortable, and reduce stiffness and pain.
  • Socks must be made of polyester or cotton blend when running a marathon. These materials help prevent blisters during the run.

Conclusion

For people with diabetes, running can be an ideal form of exercise as it helps improve the body’s insulin sensitivity. Also, a great benefit of running is that it can be tailored to one’s needs. However, running long distances can cause hypoglycemia during the activity or later. With some practice, it will be possible to understand how the body responds to running, which will help to make suitable tweaks in the planning and follow all the necessary precautions to stay safe.
For any queries related to diabetes, speak to an endocrinologist or a diabetologist.

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