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Physical activity and diabetes in children

Diabetes is a complex condition which can affect the entire body. Diabetes requires daily self-care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. There are different types of diabetes; all types are complex and serious. The main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes is different. The pancreas still makes insulin, but the insulin doesn't do its job as well in the body. Two most common risk factors for this are, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

Before any physical activity, always discuss with your child's health care provider.

Exercise for children with Type 1 and 2 diabetes has so many different benefits, from improving weight control and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to increasing self-confidence and general wellbeing. Know that it is usually safe and highly recommended for children with diabetes to exercise. Regular physical activity and exercise is critical to help to stabilise your child’s blood sugar levels, reduce obesity associated with poor diet and lack of activity and reduce complications, such as eye, nerve, kidney and heart problems as your child ages.

These are general guidelines, so discuss them first with your child’s diabetes team.

Diabetes should not limit the ability of any child in a chosen sport. Activity should be encouraged.

  • For children with Type 1 diabetes, tailor meals and insulin injections appropriately to the type and duration of exercise your child is undertaking.

  • Blood glucose monitoring is key. Measurements should be taken before, during and after exercise.

  • Monitoring of blood glucose several hours after exercise and before bed is particularly critical to ensure your child does not have a hypoglycaemic state overnight.

  • Parents should make sure teachers, coaches and other caregivers are aware of and understand your child's health condition. Provide deatiled informaiton about how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar and how to treat it.

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