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When should I exercise if I have ketones in my blood in diabetes?

Amy Campbell
Endocrinologist

Assuming you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes on insulin, you need to be careful about exercising if you have ketones. Ketones in diabetes usually indicate that you don't have enough insulin. As a result, your body can't use glucose for fuel, so it starts to burn fat, and that forms ketones. If ketones build up in the blood, it can lead to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which requires immediate medical treatment. Exercising when you have ketones may make the situation worse and also put you at risk for DKA. So, in general, if you want to exercise, check your blood glucose. If your glucose is above 250 mg/dl, check for ketones. If ketones are present, don't exercise, and follow your sick day guidelines. I you don't have these; contact your healthcare provider or diabetes educator for instructions.

Your healthcare team can help you decide the best time of the day for you to exercise. Together, you and your team will consider your daily schedule, your meal plan and your diabetes medicines.

If you have type 1 diabetes, avoid strenuous exercise when you have ketones in your blood or urine. Ketones are chemicals your body might make when your blood glucose level is too high and your insulin level is too low. Too many ketones can make you sick. If you exercise when you have ketones in your blood or urine, your blood glucose level may go even higher.

If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood glucose is high but you don't have ketones, light or moderate exercise will probably lower your blood glucose. Ask your health care team whether you should exercise when your blood glucose is high.

This answer is based on source information from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.