1. Get in the Walking Habit
Make exercise a regular part of your life. Experts agree that diabetics should exercise several days a week.
2. Choose the Right Shoes
Taking care of your feet and preventing blisters is important for diabetics, as the disease slows wound healing. Properly fitted athletic shoes will help prevent blisters and other injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. The Walking Shoe Guide explains how to get fitted properly for walking shoes.
3. Socks are Important
Socks are also a critical defense against blisters. Toss out your cotton socks; they retain sweat and can cause blisters. Get socks made of today's miracle fabrics that wick away sweat and prevent blisters.
4. Check Your Blood Sugar Levels
Check your blood sugar levels before and after walking;
When out on a long walk, it is wise to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals, especially if you are new to walking.
5. When to Walk
The best time for walking is 1 to 2 hours after a meal, when your insulin and blood sugar levels have settled down. Morning exercise is recommended, since it avoids the peak insulin part of the day, especially for Type 1 diabetics.
6. Your Insulin Dosage May Change
Your insulin requirements will change with exercise. When starting a walking program or increasing your amount of exercise, consult with your physician regularly on how to adjust your medications.
7. Drink, Drink, Drink, Drink, Drink
Drink up to prevent dehydration, which you may not notice until it is too late. Have a big glass of water an hour before walking, then drink a cup of water every 20 minutes while walking. At the end of your walk, drink another big glass of water. For long, hot walks of 2 hours or more, consider a sports drink that replaces salts, but check the carbohydrate content on the label.
8. Eating and Walking
Carry a snack for when you or your walking partner detects signs of low blood sugar. After walking, you may need to eat more carbohydrates than usual to prevent delayed hypoglycemia. Especially when starting or increasing your walking program, be extra aware of symptoms and signs, listen to your body and consult your doctor with any questions on diet.
9. Know the Signs of Hypoglycemia
When walking, stay aware of your body and how you are feeling. It can be difficult to tell whether you are sweating from exertion or hypoglycemia. Here are symptoms, courtesy of NIH: feeling weak, drowsy, confused, hungry and dizzy, paleness, headache, irritability, trembling, sweating, rapid heart beat and a cold, clammy feeling. In severe cases, you could lapse into a coma.
10. Buddy Up and Wear an Alert Bracelet
Walking with a partner or walking club has several benefits. First, you can have him or her watch you for signs of low blood sugar and nag you to take care of yourself. Second, walking with somebody else keeps you more regular in your exercise. In any case, wear a medical identification bracelet that says you have diabetes. That is critical in a medical emergency.