My Journey to Pump Therapy Part 6: The Benefits of Exercising with an Insulin Pump

Posted by allison on Fri, 03/20/2015 - 08:12 in

Check out the first five parts of Allison Nimlos’ series on her journey to starting on an insulin pump with type 1 diabetes.

One of the most noticeable benefits of using an insulin pump is when I’m exercising. Exercising is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve never been an athletic person! So it’s easy to want to give up when it’s both hard on the body and hard on the diabetes. Luckily I’ve found that using an insulin pump has helped in many different ways as I try to stay active.












Right now I’m training for a half marathon, but I also do other types of exercise like yoga and strength training. My blood sugars are affected differently depending on what I’m doing, and even the length of time plays a role. A three mile run affects my blood sugar differently than a six mile or 10 mile run. Being able to monitor with my glucose meter and then alter the settings on my insulin pump has helped me not only stay physically active, but also keep my blood sugars where they need to be. In order to perform at my best, my blood sugars need to be stable. Otherwise I feel terrible and consequently, my performance is pretty terrible!

Using Temporary Basal Rates

Temporary basal rates are something that you can’t get on multiple daily injections. Once you take that shot of long-acting insulin, it’s in your system for the entire day. This can make things trickier when you want to be active. I have found using a temp basal rate with my insulin pump before exercise very valuable, especially when I’m doing something for an hour or more. Many people find that they don’t need as much insulin, because exercise can make their body very sensitive to insulin. An hour or two before you start exercising, you can temporarily lower your basal rate by a certain percentage (talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about how much!). The pump will also return to your normal dose automatically, without you having to think about it!

Watch Out For The “DOH!” Phenomenon

You may be familiar with the dawn phenomenon (where the body’s hormones raise blood sugar in the early morning), but have you heard about “DOH” phenomenon? It stands for Delayed Onset Hypoglycemia and it can happen anywhere from 6-12 hours after a person has finished exercising. If you know that you have delayed onset hypoglycemia, you can create and use an entirely different basal pattern to change your basal rate without having to remember. Most days I exercise in the morning, but occasionally if I don’t have time or if I choose to take a different class, I will exercise in the evening. When I exercise in the evening, my body is more sensitive to insulin overnight and I don’t suffer from the dawn phenomenon. Because of that, my basal settings (which go up at 4:00 AM to accommodate the insulin resistance) will be way too high and I’ll go low! When I exercise at night, I have to change my basal settings just for that window so that I don’t get an increase in insulin. That prevents me from having a nighttime hypoglycemic episode. Everyone will be different, of course, but this is another example of how helpful using an insulin pump can be during and even after exercising!

Perks of the Omnipod and Working Out

I’m a runner and also practice yoga. One reason why I love wearing the Omnipod insulin pump is that it doesn’t flop around while I’m being active. It stays in place while I’m running around or zenning out. Even though I’m active, I still need some insulin while I’m exercising (although sometimes just not as much). Wearing the Omnipod System allows me to continue getting the insulin I need while also being comfortable while getting my sweat on! The Omnipod System doesn’t have tubing, which can make it more convenient when exercising. Click here to order a FREE Demo to feel what it’s like to wear it.