By: Diane M. Pearson
Nothing has changed. Recent studies show that the majority of Americans are still exercising less and gaining more weight. This could mean trouble for people with diabetes, and anyone who wants to stay healthy.
Research shows that exercise decreases insulin resistance, improves insulin uptake, lowers blood sugars and improves HbA1c levels. It can also lower stress levels and give a greater sense of well-being.
So why don’t people with diabetes “just do it?”
Some of the top reasons our patients at the University of California in San Diego give us for sidestepping exercise are as follows.
- It’s boring.
- It’s uncomfortable.
- It’s not fun.
- I don’t have the time and it takes too much effort.
So how do you change a pain into a worthwhile gain? The following are practical tips to help you do just that.
- Cross out the word “exercise” and call it “activity” instead.
- Look at what your individual “activities” are each day. These are plans you make and execute on a regular basis like work, household chores, eating and relaxing. List these so you can get a concrete look at what your usual day looks like on paper.
- Find the action in these activities, as the following examples demonstrate.
- business meetings (walking to)
- filing reports (bending, pulling, pushing drawers)
- chores (laundry basket lifting, picking up, arm extending)
- relaxing (sitting down, getting up)
4. Exaggerate the action that you are doing. For example:
- In your walk to the meeting, use the stairwell or take the longer way to a neighboring office.
- Before you file, stretch to the ceiling. Hold in your stomach before you safely crouch down and pull the drawer open. Finish with another stretch and deep breath.
- While doing chores, put on some dancing music that has a beat to it, and stretch and reach those cobwebs on the ceiling with a broom. Lift car parts or small machinery like dumbbells a few times to get a little strength training.
- During television commercials, lift the right then left knee all the way to the chest with your abdomen tucked in. Repeat throughout the commercial break.
Also, try riding a bike with your child or grandchild, or play one of their outdoor games when you are chatting about how their days were. They will enjoy it, and you will feel like a kid again. When you are at work, instead of a business or friendly lunch, make it a walk to the beach or through a shopping center. Getting some extra fresh air and an increased pulse will help you think more creatively and perhaps show you a different side of your colleague or business guest.
In other words, build action into your regular day. Add breadth and width to your everyday routine. The Council on Exercise recommends a practical approach to becoming fit. It uses the acronym FIT, standing for these recommendations.
- Frequency: How often you do an activity. The council recommends doing an activity five or more days per week.
- Intensity: How much effort you should put into the activity.
- Time: The number of minutes per day, at the appropriate intensity, that the activity should be done. The recommendation is 30 minutes per day, but you can fill up that 30 minutes with any combination of activities you want. An example would be a four-minute brisk walk to get from your car to your office and back, one minute to do stairwells at work or in the department store, two minutes taking the long way to a meeting or to deliver a project, and 10 minutes doing household chores.
If you can begin by aiming for fitness and not perfection, you will slowly gravitate toward a more active lifestyle that actually becomes your daily routine. Although some of the ideas above will not rapidly decrease blood sugar in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, they will start you on the path to personal confidence in tackling increased action in everything you do. Soon you will be in the flow of a more healthy lifestyle that will contribute to better blood sugars.