It is no secret that exercise is key to the successful management of diabetes. Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to bring down blood sugar levels, cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve overall health and well being. Yet despite all of these well-documented benefits, there are still so many people that are resistant to engage in regular exercise in our increasingly sedentary population. Reframing negative thoughts on physical activity, learning new ways to get moving safely and being able to experience the positive effects that regular exercise can bring are very helpful in maintaining a good exercise routine. Here are some tips to give you a fresh perspective and some motivation to start!
1. First and foremost, exercise safely!
You’ve made the decision to start being more active….great! Before getting started, make sure to take the proper safety precautions to avoid injury and/or exhaustion, especially if you are starting exercise for the first time or after a long hiatus.
- Consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program to obtain medical approval, especially if you have concerns about limitations
- Warm up and stretch your muscles for at least 5 minutes before beginning a workout and do a 5-minute cool down after
- Use caution or even avoid physical activity outside in extreme temperatures (super hot or very cold), or consider changing workouts to indoors in these temperatures.
- Don’t over exert yourself, exercise at an intensity that feels moderate and comfortable
- Wear the right gear- choose comfortable, breathable clothing and appropriate sturdy footwear during workouts.
- Be sure to hydrate adequately before during and after your workout
- When working with weights or fitness equipment, get some initial instruction about proper form and positioning from an experienced trainer.
2. Where to start? Try walking!
For the majority of people, walking is a great place to begin because it is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment, just a good pair of sneakers! Brisk walking is considered an aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate and burns calories to help with weight and blood sugar control. In addition, the walking that you do throughout the day can add up and count towards your daily physical activity goal.
- Start by walking at a moderate pace for 10-15 minutes a day, about three times a week
- Then as you become more comfortable and build up your endurance, try gradually increasing your walking time until you are able to walk for a full 30-45 minutes.
- Eventually once you are in the groove you can try increasing your frequency to four or five times weekly
3. Count your steps for accountability and motivation
Using a pedometer is a terrific way to stay focused and on track with your walking progress. A pedometer is a small device that counts the number of steps you take in the course of the day. Pedometer use is an easy, inexpensive and helpful way to ensure that you are getting in your daily steps to promote blood sugar and weight control.
- A pedometer can be clipped to your belt or waistband, or there are many that can we worn on the wrist. Make to sure to put the device on at the beginning of your day and keep it on until end of the day so it can count every step that you take.
- Begin by determining your average daily step total. Wear the pedometer for three consecutive full days, add up the total daily steps from those three days, then divide that step total by three. Once you know the average steps you take per day, then you can set small goals for yourself to increase the total number of steps you take every day.
- In addition to pedometers, there are many mobile apps that can be beneficial to tracking your lifestyle goals such as food and activity trackers, wearable devices to track heart rate/sleep habits, online workouts and support communities. Some technologies can even send data to your healthcare team for more detailed monitoring.
4. Keep your workouts upbeat with some audio entertainment!
Try listening to music and or other forms of audio to help you stay moving. There are so many options to choose from to keep you engaged and make your exercise time more enjoyable.
- Listen to the radio or make your own custom playlist to enjoy your favorite songs while working out. Moving to the beat can help keep you motivated.
- Catch up on your favorite story or learn new things by listening to audio book or podcast.
- You can even try exercising without audio for once, and enjoy the sounds of nature and the neighborhood.
5. Don’t stay seated for too long
Studies have shown that avoiding prolonged periods of sitting can help decrease risk of developing type 2 diabetes and also may help blood sugar control in those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Try to move around as often as possible.
- Don’t sit for longer than 30-60 minutes. Break up the time by briefly standing up, refilling your water bottle, taking a bathroom break, or if you have time- take a short walk or do a few stretches to re-energize and stay healthy.
- Remind yourself to take breaks by setting a timer or alarm on your smartphone.
6. Piece together your activity to meet your daily goal
If you do not have a solid period of time to complete your workout then you can still meet your goal by breaking up your activity and doing it throughout the day/evening. Doing just 10 minutes of activity several times a day adds up and provides similar health benefits to single blocks of time. There are many ways you can add in a little bit of activity every day without making huge demands on your schedule.
- Arrive at your destination early, park further away, and then walk to it/around it for at least ten minutes.
- Take the stairs in place of the elevator whenever you can and try to do this several times during the day or at lunch/break times.
- Go for a 10 minute walk after breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Spend ten minutes at the beginning and end of each day doing yoga, or a few resistance and stretching exercises.
7. Get your chores done and your activity in at the same time
Many routine household activities such as yard work, cleaning, mopping vacuuming, carrying groceries, gardening, and are all forms of physical activity that can help get your heart rate up and burn calories. Try to include some of these home improvement activities in your weekly routine.
- Create a weekly chore to do list as a plan to work in more activity in and systematically finish your chores, this way you can accomplish two things at once by cleaning and working out at the same time.
- Many household chores and can burn calories by doing them for as little as half an hour. Try some of the following for 15-30 minutes:
Sweeping, washing dishes, laundry and dusting are considered “light” activity.
Gardening, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, scrubbing floors, vacuuming, washing cars, washing windows, carrying out trash, shoveling snow/dirt are considered “moderate” activity.
8. Use activity as a way to help spend time with your family
Make plans with your family to do something active together at least once a week. It is a great way to spend quality time with each other and get some exercise in at the same time. Being active as a family sets a good example for your children to continue to stay active during their lives and it helps to keep your weight and blood sugars under control while you are at it.
- Try simple activities like a family bike ride, walk/hike or going to the park to play basketball or kick a soccer ball around. They don’t cost anything yet you will get the added benefit of some physical activity.
- Create family fitness fun activities at home like hula hooping in the garage together or having a dance party in the living room.