2013-01-22

Change And Blood Glucose

I still remember the day my first endocrinologist told me (and I quote verbatim), "One to two mild lows per week is part of good blood glucose control." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Isn't that just the perfect soundbite in answer to the question, "How often should I experience hypoglycemia as a diabetic?" Critical as I am of the Canadian health care system's ability to treat me, that doctor was a really great one, and I miss her every time I find myself in a doctor's office. (Probably no coincidence: she was not a Canadian doctor at all; she was Irish, doing a sabbatical in Canada.)

Over the last few weeks, I have gone from experiencing one mild low per week to experiencing several of them. While one low is not a big deal to me at all, having several is somewhat bothersome. So what changed?

While I can probably point to a handful of minor recent lifestyle changes, the biggest change of them all is a new exercise regimen I have undertaken. This began with three strength training sessions per week, plus some mild cardiovascular exercise. As the weeks went by, my strength training sessions became much more intense. Over the past weeks, I have increased the intensity even further. And, in the past week, I have made regular and somewhat intense cardiovascular activity a consistent part of my workouts.

It is always true that increasing one's activity level reduces one's need for long-acting insulin. So, at least some of my recent lows can be attributed purely to an increase in my overall activity level.

But that doesn't really tell the whole story. I have increased and decreased my activity level many times and many different ways since my 2009 LADA diagnosis. Not every change in activity level has resulted in a significant change to my blood glucose levels. Considering that fact, it seems likely that there is more to it than just a bald increase in activity.

Which brings me back to my post from the other day. My recent blood glucose levels seem to lend additional credence to the notion that the important aspect of physical fitness - at least with respect to diabetic exercise - is the degree to which one's fitness regimen changes and progresses.

In summary, I'd like to make a recommendation to my fellow diabetics. Don't merely exercise. Vary your workouts to the tune of doing something new every two weeks or so. This "something new" can consist of increasing the weights you're lifting or increasing the speed at which you do cardio, but perhaps more ideally it should involve entirely new exercises every one to two weeks. If you used the stairmaster all last week, good for you; now try jumping rope. If you played a lot of racquetball last week, that's great; now try swimming for a week. If you went to a CrossFit gym last week, excellent; go to a boxing gym this week, for a change.

The point here is that variety is more than just "the spice of life." It's an important component in blood sugar management as it pertains to exercise. Shake it up!