June 6, 2002
Exercise and Sports
Question from Fort Worth, Texas, USA:
I am 17 years old, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six months ago, and I’m extremely active in gymnastics. I’m in the gym 15-20 hours a week, but I heard that gymnastics doesn’t affect blood sugars at all. Is that true?
As an activity, gymnastics has a significantly greater portion of what is called “anaerobic” or power-type metabolism, which in itself can have a tendency to raise blood sugar rather than lower it. Having said that however, the only way to know for sure what your participation in gymnastics is doing to your blood sugar levels is to measure them. In this way you can pattern your blood glucose response and take appropriate action to control your numbers, avoiding either high or low blood sugar during and for the hours after your participation.
Doing one back flip or one beam routine might have little effect on your glucose levels, but to say that the amount of training you are doing has no effect would be incorrect. As a result of your gymnastics participation, you have developed an increased muscle mass and have a higher resting metabolism than a sedentary person. Muscle is active tissue and even at rest uses more glucose than fat does. That in itself will have an effect on your insulin needs and your diabetes management.
Congratulations on your active lifestyle and best of luck with your gymnastics!