By: Paul Cadreau
Think back to the first time you tasted alcohol or puffed your first cigarette. As odd as it sounds (and unfortunately), after your first distaste you may have learned to like them. Obviously, we can condition ourselves to enjoy, even relish, something we once hated. This can and does work for the positive as well.
All of need us to exercise, and people with diabetes even more so. For those of you who find exercise boring or a chore, the great news is that you can learn to enjoy brisk walking and fun workouts. Just as the beer drinker’s mouth waters when thinking of a cold beer in July, you can look forward to breaking a sweat.
Awhile ago, a couple of health professionals at the American Indian Community House in New York City found exactly the right recipe to help people with diabetes acquire happy feet. Just as people enjoy each other’s company while drinking, they created a situation in which people with diabetes could enjoy the company of fellow walkers while improving their health.
One of the professionals would schedule places and times for us to meet and walk a few miles. It’s delightful to exercise within a group. On one such walk on a lovely spring Saturday, we walked briskly over the George Washington Bridge and took in lovely scenery as we socialized. We caught a glimpse of a soaring falcon and followed the flight of a majestic hawk. You too, can form a walking club to support and share ideas with those you know.
The other professional gave awards each month to the top three walkers, verified by step-o-meters. But we were all winners because we had formed a positive addiction. While walking together, we conditioned ourselves to let stress go and enjoy the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the seasons (dressing appropriately in winter and hydrating well in summer).
You too can have a party while walking with others. Or, while walking alone, you can meditate, allowing your mind to be refreshed. The miles will start to fly by. The key is diverting your attention to what you find positive and stimulating. As long as you are medically cleared, you can move up to more vigorous exercises, such as light jogging, cycling, or an aerobic or self defense class. If you do not want to spend money on a gym membership, keep your hands in your pockets. Old-fashioned walking, jogging, or even calisthenics work fine, providing essential health benefits. Use your mind while exercising. Re-live your last enjoyable date, solve a problem, or think invigorating thoughts, and your exercise sessions will be pleasant.