Making exercise safe for kids with diabetes and endocrine disorders

Exercise is good for everyone. Children and teens with diabetes and other endocrine conditions need to be aware of how exercise affects blood sugar levels. An exercise physiologist can help make exercise safe for children with diabetes.

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Providers with Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute offer specialized education and care for children and young adults with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

We all know exercise has many benefits, such as helping maintain a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol, relieving tension and stress, elevating mood, and improving blood sugar control.

However, for someone living with diabetes, exercise causes significant blood sugar variability, which impacts performance and poses health risks. Since individuals with diabetes still need to exercise — or may even want to participate in sports — they need to be aware of how to exercise safely.

That’s where Amy Sketch comes in.

Amy is an exercise physiologist with Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute, a part of Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. She works with children, teens and young adults on how to improve performance while safely participating in sports and other activities.

“Exercise is a key component to good health and preventing complications,” Amy said. “Knowing how your body responds to exercise is important to guide decisions regarding blood sugar management around times of activity. It also helps manage your condition.”

Exercise is an essential element to blood sugar regulation in individuals living with diabetes.

Amy performs tests on patients to assess strength, coordination, resting metabolism and cardiorespiratory fitness. She also works with patients and their families to provide exercise programs that will help them improve performance and overall quality of life.

“I want each of my patients to reach their own fitness goals, whether it’s playing organized sports or simply being active,” Amy said.

An exercise physiologist is different from a physical therapist.

An exercise physiologist looks at how the body responds to exercise on a systemwide level. A physical therapist, on the other hand, helps people improve function and mobility and reduce pain, often after an injury or surgery.

Amy is part of a multidisciplinary team at Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute. The team of pediatric endocrinologists, diabetes educators, nurses, dietitians and mental health professionals work together to provide the tools and knowledge to participate in activities safely while improving performance.

In addition to the work she does with patients and their families, Amy is interested in research. In graduate school, she studied how participating in sports affects A1C in children with Type 1 diabetes. A1C measures average blood sugar levels over the previous three months.

“I was taught that to be the best I can be. I need to help others be the best they can be,” Amy said. “Taking care of others has always been important to me, and now I get to do it every day. Adding sports and activity to the mix is just a bonus.”

Amy earned her Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and Master of Science degree in exercise physiology from the University of Louisville.

In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time outside with her family and dogs, along with cheering on the Louisville Cardinals.