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Hypoglycemia and Outdoor Activities

As the sun comes out and the days get warmer, many people head outside, whether for recreational activities like yard work, or dedicated physical activity like biking or walking. Although it’s great to get outside and get moving, particularly if you have diabetes, there are some important things you need to keep in mind when you take your physical activities outdoors, especially when it comes to preventing hypoglycemia.

Seasons make a difference

The same activity that you do in the cooler weather, when done in the summer, may negatively affect your blood glucose (sugar). This occurs for a number of reasons. Metabolism is higher when it is hot and humid. Dehydration, or loss of body fluids, can happen during summer months when you're active and do not drink enough. Elevated levels of blood glucose can also lead to an increase in the body's excretion of urine.  In addition, many symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as sweating, weakness, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, and feeling tired, can also mimic the body’s response to heat, making it difficult to recognize hypoglycemia when it occurs.

What can I do?

The key, according to Michael See, MS, RCEP, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, at Joslin Diabetes Center, is to “reacquaint yourself to your blood sugar’s response to physical activity.”  Develop strategies around exercise, self monitor, and adjust accordingly, whether it be through insulin, eating, or hydrating. Keep in mind the level of physical activity, and the duration. If you plan accordingly and speak with your healthcare provider, you can safely enjoy your outdoor physical activities year-round.

Page last updated: September 21, 2014