Over 60% of type 1 diabetics are considered inactive, and a recent study has concluded that a fear of exercise induced hypoglycemia might be a big reason why. This reasoning is seriously flawed however, as proper exercise is essential to diabetes maintenance.
Type 1 diabetes, a condition characterized by lack of insulin production by the pancreas, naturally has a risk of causing hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar), without proper monitoring. Exercise also can have the effect of lowering blood sugar levels, both in healthy and diabetic individuals. Because of this fact, many type 1 diabetics claim to fear exercise, thinking that being active will induce dangerous bouts of hypoglycemia.
The study focused on 100 type 1 diabetics, half men, half women. Extensive questionnaire’s were filled out regarding physical activity, fears, and degree to which each person understood the mechanisms guiding type 1 diabetes. As excuses for not exercising, being already out-of-shape and interference with work were mentioned, but the most prevalent fear was hypoglycemia.
For those that demonstrated a strong knowledge of type 1 diabetes, however, hypoglycemia was less often used as an excuse for not exercising. This is because it has been shown in an abundant amount of research, that exercise helps control blood sugar levels, and other problems associated with diabetes, more than anything (along with proper nutrition). “Exercise has been proven to improve health and one would assume diabetics would remain active. Yet our findings indicate that type 1 diabetics, much like the general public, are not completely comfortable with exercise,” says study author Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret.
The clearest conclusion to draw from this study is the need for diabetics to become more educated about their disease. The high presence of fear about hypoglycemia leads study author Anne-Sophie Brazeau to conclude that “programs aimed an increasing physical activity among type 1 adult diabetics need to incorporate specific actions to prevent hypoglycemia.” The study “also found that individuals with the greatest fear of physical activity had the poorest control of their diabetes,” says Brazeau, whether it be misinformation, or other forces, that were driving their fears. With greater awareness and understanding, diabetics should lessen their fears of physical activity, exercise more, and better their health.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Brazeau, Anne-Sophie. Rabasa-Lhoret, Rémi. Diabetes Care news release. November 2008.