Water Sports and Diabetes
With the summer in full swing, and temperatures are at their highest, it seems only logical to hit the water to keep cool. If you have access to a boat, water sports are a great way for you and your friends to have a little fun at the lake and get some exercise at the same time!
Whether you waterski, wakeboard or simply ride on an inner tube behind a boat, diabetes does not have to put a damper on your summer fun. Just keep the following things in mind to keep your blood sugar regular and your day in the sun worry free.
- Water sports can affect your blood sugar levels just as any other exercise would. If you are about to engage in an activity such as waterskiing or wakeboarding, make sure to always check your blood sugars before and after you get in the water to adjust your insulin or carbohydrate levels accordingly. For example, if your blood sugar levels drop while you waterski, plan to eat a little bit and/or adjust your insulin before you hit the water to avoid hypoglycemic events.
- Water temperature could affect your blood glucose levels. If you stay in cold water for too long, shivering can take up quite a lot of energy in a short amount of time; this could cause your glucose levels to drop. If you expect the water to be colder than normal and you are planning to be in it, take preventative measures. If you have one, wear a wetsuit or a heater top to keep your body warm. You may also want to consider adjusting your insulin levels accordingly and test more often to make sure you are staying regular. Always check with your physician before making any unusual adjustments.
In addition, cold water can decrease blood flow to your fingers. If you are testing your levels, make sure to warm your hands first to get an effective blood sample. If you cannot keep your levels regular due to the water temperature, it may be best to stay out of the water.
- Always be prepared when you are on the water and away from land. Bring extra carbohydrate snacks such as fruit or Gatorade to eat periodically and to replenish any blood sugar lows. If you are using a pump, bring an extra site and insulin pens in case yours falls off in the water, and consider bringing an extra meter in case the other gets wet. Additionally, make sure everyone on board understands that you have diabetes and how to combat an issue if it comes up. It is important to have a backup plan for everything.
- Be careful not to wear your insulin pump in the water, as most pumps cannot be completely submerged. While you are in the boat, keep your insulin pump attached. When you want to enter the water, temporarily disconnect your pump and leave it with a trusted boat passenger or inside the glove compartment to keep it safe. It is usually okay for you to keep your site on, but always check your site’s user manual to make sure it can withstand getting wet. It is possible for the site to come off in the water if the adhesive gets too soaked; if you are concerned about this, consider applying extra tape to keep it on, or place it in a location that will stay covered (such as on your stomach under a wetsuit or life vest) so it is less likely to fall off.
- Test, test, test. As with any exercise, it is always important to make sure you are testing more often than usual so you are aware of how your water sports activity is affecting your blood sugar. Testing every hour and before and after you hit the water should be enough for you to keep track. If your blood sugars spike too high or sink too low, make sure you are prepared with snacks and enough insulin to combat hypo or hyperglycemia.
As a person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you do not have to be limited to certain summer activities. Like most physical exercise, you can still enjoy water sports as long as you plan correctly for it. Make sure to come prepared with snacks and backup supplies in case anything unusual arises.
If you have not tried water sports before out of fear of what they could do to your levels, have no fear! Your diabetes can be easily managed even while you are taking that waterski run across the lake or catching big air on a wakeboard.