Diabetes and Exercise Safely in Winter Weather

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Prepare for the Cold

Winter sports are good forms of exercise for many people with diabetes, A cross-country skier, Stressing the importance of getting your doctor’s approval before taking up a winter sport and checking your blood glucose before, during, and after your workout.

Whether you’re snowshoeing, skiing, or skating, make sure you’re ready for whatever Old Man Winter throws your way. There aren’t many places colder than the top of a mountain. It’s no surprise, then, that extreme mountain climber Will Cross knows how to manage cold weather and his diabetes.

Smart Clothing

While wool is Cross’ fabric of choice, Synthetic fabrics also keep out the wind and cold. Be sure to protect your hands and face, Layers will keep you warm and are easy to shed as you or the weather heats up. Wear hats, face masks, and gloves or mittens. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Sunscreen is an absolute necessity. It not only protects your skin, it can help to keep you hydrated. Dehydration is as much of a danger in cold weather as it is in hot weather.

Keep Insulin Warm: Since insulin can deteriorate in extreme temperatures and will freeze, Cross keeps his insulin inside his clothing and next to his skin. He recommends keeping insulin pens, pumps, and monitoring devices under clothing to keep them as warm as possible.

Staying Safe

Know Yourself: Self-awareness is key when exercising in the cold, To prevent frostbite, wiggle your hands and toes inside your gloves and boots regularly.

Watch for Symptoms: Hypothermia and hypoglycemia are also risks.

For mild hypothermia, symptoms might include:

  • shivering
  • incoherence
  • loss of coordination

For hypoglycemia, symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • shakiness
  • sweating

If you or your buddy thinks you’re experiencing either, get help immediately. When in a skiing area, the National Ski Patrol can provide assistance. Members are trained to help people with diabetes, a longtime member of the National Ski Patrol who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1981. If you’re planning to go to an area that’s more secluded, carry a cell phone that you know will have service and let others know where you plan to go.

Buddy Up

When heading out for winter sports, invite a buddy and pack a snack. A friend can help you if you fall or get too cold or tired. A snack will give you a boost if your blood glucose drops. Glucose tablets, fruit juice, raisins, and hard candy are good choices, Staying hydrated is paramount in the dry winter air. Tuck an insulated flask of hot tea, sugar-free cider, or water in a waist pack or backpack.

Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing

  • Calorie burn for snowshoeing: 292 calories per 30 minutes (180-pound person)
  • Calorie burn for cross country skiing: 326 calories per 30 minutes (180-pound person)

If you can walk, you can snowshoe, With lightweight aluminum or composite snowshoes, just pick up your feet and put them down. Poles help you move along and keep your balance. If you’re a beginner, start on flat trails with well-packed snow and get some tips from an experienced snowshoer.

Cross-country skiing is another way to explore the backwoods. To move along the trail, alternately extend your arms and legs in long forward glides. A more advanced technique called "skating" employs a diagonal motion that increases speed. Cross-country skiing can be quite strenuous and requires more balance than snowshoeing, Because you can ski at your own pace, it’s a suitable sport for people of all ages.

Check winter resorts and ski shops for instruction. You’ll need cross-country skis, poles, and boots. Be sure the length of the skis and poles is appropriate for your height and weight. Choose boots that cover your ankles and be sure they fit properly.

Downhill Skiing

  • Calorie burn: 244 calories per 30 minutes (180-pound person)

Downhill skiing may seem like it’s all about speed, but control and skill are far more important. Before you head for the slopes, set up a workout program to get your muscles in good shape and sign up for a few lessons if you’re a skiing novice or just rusty.

Ries is especially careful when purchasing ski boots. Peripheral nerve damage from ski boots that are too tight is something people with diabetes need to avoid, When having ski boots fitted, tell the clerk that you have diabetes. Also, get expert help in choosing skis and poles to match your height and ability.

Ice Skating

  • Calorie burn: 255 calories per 30 minutes (180-pound person)

Pushing with your legs is the basic technique in ice-skating. Once you’ve mastered it, you can swing your arms from side to side for speed, balance, and a little more exercise. Because you’re wearing boots with narrow steel runners, though, skating may not be as easy as it looks. For lessons, call a local skating or hockey rink to find out the schedule for your experience level. Select skates that fit snugly but don’t inhibit toe movement. And consider flexible knee pads to protect your knees from those inevitable falls.

Special Note: This article or any article herein, is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine. Always consult with your Doctor First