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June 14, 1999

Exercise and Sports

Question from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA:

My 3 year old son has just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. How much daily exercise is the correct amount for him?


You probably do not need to encourage your toddler to increase his physical activity. Toddlers are naturally full of boundless energy and curiosity. They delight in pulling things off of shelves, climbing on furniture, or tumbling through the yard. This endless energy never seems to stop. Your son should definitely not be restricted from this supercharged energy release. If anything, encourage physical activity as part of his daily routine. Remember to always keep it enjoyable. Your goal should be to make regular physical activity a natural part of life so your toddler will continue with it as he grows older. This way you can encourage activity by being a good role model. Explore different opportunities for physical activity and choose the ones that are most enjoyable for you and your son. Remember, activity should be fun, not a chore!

If your toddler does not enjoy swimming, don’t force it; try something else. If your toddler sees and experiences physical activity as fun, he will most likely continue with it.

Physical activity should be a regular part of your son’s life. However, there are some precautions. The key is to test your toddler’s blood glucose frequently; especially on very active days. If he is spilling ketones, do not let him exercise. And remember to serve extra snacks on particularly strenuous days to avoid a low blood glucose reaction. You might also want to keep some form of quick-acting carbohydrate ready at all times, and be ready to treat a low blood glucose reaction if it occurs. Finally, it may be a good idea to check your son’s blood glucose at nighttime after active days to make sure his blood glucose does not dip too low.