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Diabetes and Winter Sports: How to Stay Safe

Diabetes and Winter Sports: How to Stay Safe

Winter sports are a great way to stay active when the weather enters the single digits. However, with those temperature drops come a few new challenges for individuals with diabetes. Diabetes doesn’t need to keep you from participating, but an awareness of winter sport challenges can make sure you enjoy your sport and the crisp winter air. 


Check your blood sugar often

Woman outside testing blood sugar.

The body burns extra calories to stay warm in the cold. Those extra calories may make it easier for you to get low. Remember to check your blood sugar before you begin exercising, and test every hour to two to keep an eye on your numbers. 


Keep your equipment warm

Cold temperatures can affect your glucose meter’s accuracy. Glucose meters have an operating temperature that usually falls between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below that could cause inaccurate readings. 

Try storing the glucose meter in your inner layers of clothing, where your body can keep it warm. Alternatively, keep it in a bag that’s inside a temperature-controlled area, like in a lodge or other heated space. 


Keep your insulin warm

Insulin needs to stay between 40 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your insulin bottles, pens, or syringes in a temperature-controlled area just like you do your glucose meter. It should be somewhere you can access it when it’s time for a meal or snack. 

Those who wear insulin pumps will need to keep their pump warm too. Try to wear it close to your body, where your clothes and body provide insulation and heat. 


Stay with a buddy

Two women skiing.

Skiing, ice skating, sledding—whatever your outdoor activity or sport is, do it with a buddy. Staying with a buddy is a good idea in the winter, whether you have diabetes or not. Injury or accidents could leave you stranded where cold temperatures can turn an inconvenient situation into a dangerous one. 

A buddy can also help you if you feel your blood sugar levels dropping. There may be a point where you need your buddy to get help or get supplies for you. Wear a medic alert bracelet so that any medics will immediately know your condition and what they can do to help. 


Watch out for delayed lows

Blood sugar levels can drop 4 to 24 hours after you’ve been active. During activity, your body burns through the glycogen stored in your muscles. It’s important to replenish those stores to reduce the chances of a delayed low. 

Try eating a few carbs 30 minutes before you get active. You can also reduce the amount of insulin you use before starting or combine diet changes with insulin changes to account for the added calorie burn. 

Once you’re done for the day, make sure to eat a snack. Anytime you participate in moderately strenuous activity, you may need up to 30 grams of carbs for every hour you are active. Your doctor can help you determine a plan that’s specific to your body and how you respond to activity and insulin. 


Check your feet

It’s important to take care of your feet. Individuals with diabetes are prone to foot issues due to poor circulation and neuropathy. Ski boots, snow boots, and ice skates aren’t known for their comfort. Make sure they fit well but leave enough room for adequate circulation. 

Thick winter socks provide plenty of insulation and padding, but they can pinch or bunch, creating sores and blisters. Consider using compression socks designed for cold weather use. They insulate without adding bulk. However, make sure to try on your footgear with the socks you’ll be wearing while you do your sport. 

Ski boots are a great example. Thick socks can easily cut off circulation in a tight-fitting boot. You should be able to wiggle your toes. Carefully check the seams of your socks before tightening your boots or locking in your laces. 


Protect your skin

Cold winter weather wreaks havoc on the skin. Before heading out the door, apply a day moisturizer. VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer has naturally antibacterial and antifungal ingredients that combat some of the dangers of sweaty winter feet. 

If you have problems with chafing around your feet or anywhere else on the body, try VitalFit’s Liquid-to-Powder Plus. It goes on like a lotion and creates a friction barrier to protect you from painful rubbing and chafing. 


Regular meals and snacks

Man eating bowl of fruit

As tempting as another run is before lunch, eat regular meals. Keep a couple of snacks in your pocket in case you get low or delayed for a meal. 


Final thoughts

Winter sports are a great way to stay active and keep your glucose levels under control. Knowing how the cold weather affects your body will let you safely participate in your favorite cold-weather activities. Take care of your skin, keep snacks on hand, and monitor your blood sugar carefully. Then, hit the slopes for some winter fun.

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