Encouraging Children & Young People With Diabetes To Be Active

Encouraging Children & Young People With Diabetes To Be Active

Regular physical activity is important and benefits people of all ages. It includes anything that gets your child/young person moving. It is not necessary to join a gym or buy expensive equipment at home.

Key points to remember about diabetes and physical activity in children

  • it is important to encourage children/young people with diabetes to be active as part of their daily routine

What kind of physical activity is good for my child with diabetes?

Regular physical activity is important and benefits people of all ages. It includes anything that gets your child/young person moving, including walking to and from school, running around the house or in the playground at school, chasing the dog, organised sports, or even helping with housework! It is not necessary to join a gym or buy expensive equipment at home.

How does physical activity help my child with diabetes?

Physical activity helps to:

  • lower blood glucose levels
  • improve insulin sensitivity (the ability of insulin to work in the body)
  • manage weight within a healthy range
  • strengthen muscles, heart and bones
  • increase flexibility and body coordination
  • increase energy levels
  • improve self-esteem and confidence
  • improve overall wellbeing

Being active as part of daily routine

It is important to encourage children/young people with diabetes to be active as part of their daily routine - at home, at school and at play, and also throughout adulthood. Physical activity should involve the whole family for both support and overall health benefits.

Insulin therapy and physical activity

If your child is using insulin therapy, your local diabetes team will discuss with you all aspects of balancing blood glucose control, insulin dosage, carbohydrate intake and physical activity, in relation to hypoglycaemia. The care plan for certain types of physical activities may be different and your child will be given individualised guidelines regarding exercise.

How can I help my child with diabetes increase their level of physical activity?

Every activity counts!

Have a positive attitude to activity

  • every activity counts!
  • see activity as an 'opportunity' not an inconvenience
  • think of fun activities that your child/young person likes doing

Be active as a family

  • involve the whole family
  • be a role model - be active
  • limit time for inactivity such as watching TV, playing video or computer games

Walk to places where possible

  • avoid driving when walking is possible - walk to the local shop, for instance
  • park the car further from your destination
  • take the stairs instead of the lifts
  • a step counter may help to motivate your child or teen and you to make every step count - you can have a competition in the family!

Look out for activities your child might enjoy

  • look out for activities for your child or teen in community newspapers, or at your local community centre, social clubs and teams
  • take your child or teen to the park and beach on a nice day and encourage activities there
  • encourage your child/young person's friends to visit and play
  • support and encourage your child or teen to participate in activities and try out new ones

The content on this page has been approved by the Clinical Network for Children and Young People with Diabetes, Paediatric Society of New Zealand.

This page last reviewed 01 May 2020.
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