Managing the Daily Grind: Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes in Kids

During Diabetes Awareness Week 9-15th July

By Liz Dawson: Exercise Physiologist, Pilates Instructor: Kids Heart Pilates

Raising children is one of life’s greatest challenges but throwing a chronic illness like diabetes into the mix, takes parenting to the next level. The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in children is a life changing event for child and parent alike with diet, exercise and monitoring glucose levels central to ever day life. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in children with approximately 2400 Australia’s diagnosed every year. Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 is classified as an auto-immune disease and little is known about what causes it. What researchers do know is children hold a strong genetic predisposition if the disease runs in the family and it is not lifestyle related.

Exercise can be complicated in diabetic children as physical exertion affects insulin levels meaning the child must be closely monitored before and after exercise. It is however very important to incorporate 1 hour of physical activity into your child’s daily routine and not let the insulin checks perturb them from participating. Not only can exercise assist in controlling high blood sugar levels but it may also reduce the chance of associated health complications in the long run. To put a positive spin on a type 1 diabetes diagnosis, your family will be healthier than most with diet and exercise being crucial to your child’s wellness. But we all know kids don’t like being told what to do and daily management of strict diet and exercise can be a challenge. Therein lies another parenting challenge of making daily exercise something they want to do not ‘have’ to do.

So here are some ideas on how to get creative with the daily exercise regime:

  1. Most kids are tech obsessed so download a workout apps and make a daily workout video out of it.

  2. Make Halloween every day (without the candy) and dress up while you go for a walk.

  3. Join a local sporting team

  4. Weekend family bushwalks

  5. Trampoline jumping

  6. In the summer or warmer months, swimming is fun and a great workout

  7. Elastics: Do you remember this game from school, its super fun and all that jumping makes for great cardio workout

  8. Calling all auto-mobiles, bikes, scooters, skate boards and roller skates all offer amazing muscle activating, fun work outs for kids

Some additional exercise tips for diabetic children include:

  1. Making sure your child is well hydrated before and after exercise. 250 ml every 15 minutes or one litre of fluid per hour is recommended.

  2. Check the glucose levels before during and after and pack extra carbohydrates

  3. Slip, Slop, Slap (of course)

  4. Ensure you check with your child’s doctor before embarking on new exercise regimes and discuss appropriate insulin levels.