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March 18, 2002

Exercise and Sports

Question from Dallas, Texas, USA:

I am 53 years old, have type 2 diabetes treated with pills, and my A1c is consistently 6.5%. About three months ago I started power yoga classes (1.5 hours long) morning or late afternoon about four times weekly at two different yoga studios. One is a "sweat" where the room is over 100 degrees and is an intense cardiovascular workout, and the other is more of a stretch workout, but I feel that each would be beneficial for conditioning, bones and flexibility, and I intend to make this my exercise of choice. My problem is that this exercise elevates my fasting blood sugars (you're supposed to go with an empty stomach) anywhere from 30-50 mg/dl [1.7-2.8 mmol/L], and then it doesn't drop for two to three hours. Other exercise does not cause such a rise. My exercise bike (30-40 minutes) causes a small elevation, and sometimes it causes a drop. What can I do to reduce these sugars after exercise? Do the elevations take care of themselves?

Answer:

I am not sure why your sugars go up with this particular exercise. With a hemoglobin A1c of 6.5%, I would not think you are poorly insulinized. I suspect the intensity of the exercise is greater than other activities you have done. In addition, it is known that during exercise, you make additional stress hormones that antagonize the effect of insulin. I would see how your sugars do the rest of the day since the benefit of exercise lasts for 24 hours after the event. This would suggest you can see better blood sugars over time at all times of the day. I would also wait for the next hemoglobin A1c to see if there’s any change.

JTL
Additional comments from Delaine Wright:

Higher intensity exercise often can raise blood sugars as a result of hormonal influences during such anaerobic, power-type activities. You
might wish to experiment a bit by ingesting a low carb snack (15 grams) prior to your yoga class. You may find that the insulin produced by your own pancreas in response to the snack may help to block the exercise-related rise in blood sugar that you have experienced in the fasting state. Keep up the great work!

DMW