Managing Blood Sugar During Exercise with Long-Acting Insulin

Engaging in regular physical activity is good for overall health. It helps with weight management, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, blood sugar, and more. Individuals with type 1 diabetes may find exercise helpful in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the amount of insulin needed following activity. However, this can also be a challenge because they must carefully monitor their blood-glucose levels to ensure that they do not become too low or too high.

A recent study found that combining long-acting insulin (degludec) with the use of an insulin pump can be beneficial for managing glucose levels during and after exercise. Some individuals with T1D prefer to remove their insulin pump during exercise, and by administering degludec before starting exercise, they were able to remain in target range (70-180 mg/dL) for longer periods of time than when just using the insulin pump alone.

The study involved 24 physically active adults who participated in two phases of workouts that included five weeks of high- and moderate-intensity sessions. During one phase, they only used their insulin pump to control their basal insulin needs, and for the second, they used the insulin pump and the degludec. When using the insulin pump alone, they spent an average of 143 minutes (40% of the time) in target range, but when using the degludec, this time in range increased to 230 minutes (64% of the time).

The researchers found that “this was down to a significant 87-minute reduction in time spent in hyperglycemia, with no difference seen for hypoglycemia” as well. In addition, when using the hybrid insulin approach, blood sugar rose just 14.5 mg/dL after 30 minutes following exercise, compared to an 82.9 mg/dL increase using the insulin pump alone.

More than two-thirds of participants found the hybrid insulin regimen useful, and nearly half said they were somewhat or very likely to continue using this approach while exercising in the future. The researchers are looking at moving forward with a larger study to see if these results continue to be significant when more people are involved.

This study shows that there may be more than one effective option for improving glucose control during exercise for individuals with type 1 diabetes. They do not have to rely on the insulin pump alone, and some may find administering degludec beneficial when exercising without their insulin pump.

Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is interested to see how this study plays out in the future and if more people can benefit from the hybrid insulin regimen while exercising. It is encouraging to see more options become available to help individuals better control their diabetes while improving their health and quality of life. DRC supports early-career scientists in pursuing novel research on type 1 diabetes by providing access to funding. The goal is to one day find a cure while also improving prevention, treatment, and management of the disease. Learn more by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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