At present, more than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Regular physical activity is a crucial part of a diabetes management plan. Not only does it decrease body weight and improve cardiac health, but it helps to protect against insulin resistance as well.

Although the exercise of any kind will benefit an individual living with diabetes, cycling has been proven to be especially favorable. Cycling can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages, and even if you are just a casual rider, you are bound to reap the benefits of regular exercise. When taking up cycling either as a casual pastime or a competitive sport, it is important to remember that special precautions need to be taken to keep you are as healthy as possible.

Pick the right saddle

Although picking the right saddle is important for any cyclist, it is even more crucial for someone with diabetes. Men living with diabetes are more at risk of developing an enlarged prostate, while both men and women are increasingly prone to bladder concerns.

Additionally, individuals with diabetes are also at an increased risk of neuropathy (nerve damage), which can cause significant pain and discomfort and even result in amputation. For these reasons, it is imperative to steer clear of conventional saddles that put significant pressure on the soft tissue between the legs. And pressure and friction in the region can damage a nerve bundle that is responsible for both sexual health and bladder function. Look for a noseless saddle that will eliminate this soft tissue pressure, making for a more comfortable ride.

Don’t neglect post-ride recovery

Post-ride recovery is essential for all cyclists. As a cyclist with diabetes, however, restocking your muscle glycogen stores may require a bit more effort than simply upping your protein and carb intake and drinking a few glasses of water while your metabolism takes care of the rest. In order to avoid post-ride hypoglycemia, a cyclist has to keep a very close eye on their blood glucose levels.

Making use of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) allows a cyclist to track their levels in real-time and consume more glucose if needed. Even if there is no indication of hypoglycemia setting in, a post-ride meal with a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio is recommended. Normal post-ride recovery measures such as cool-down stretches and ice baths can also be of great benefit, depending on the intensity of the ride.

Always listen to your body

Although exercise is a vital part of a diabetes management plan, it can do more harm than good under certain circumstances. Over-exercising can not only have a negative impact on your blood glucose levels; it can also wreak havoc with your immune system.

If you listen to your body carefully, you will know when it is time to slow down. High blood glucose levels are also known to trigger an immune system malfunction, making an individual with diabetes more prone to infection. If you feel under the weather, whether due to illness or injury, stay off your bike. It is much better, in the long run, to miss a week of cycling than to battle an infection for months on end.

Cycling is both an enjoyable and beneficial pastime. By taking the necessary precautions, someone living with diabetes can enjoy countless happy and advantageous hours cycling to their heart’s content.

Jane Sandwood

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