Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, and it’s especially important for those with diabetes. Most people with diabetes find regular activity to be an essential part of their health care. It can help manage your blood glucose, preventing diabetic complications and even delaying the onset of type 2 if you have prediabetes.
But the thought of exercising daily can be daunting if it isn’t already part of your routine. What activity should you try, and how much? Will you need new clothes or equipment? And when are you ever going to find time for it in your busy schedule?
Rest assured, exercise doesn’t necessarily mean running a marathon or bench-pressing 300 pounds. The key is to start slow—soon, momentum will follow. Follow these tips to get moving and stay on track!
Choose activities that fit you and your lifestyle: Anything that increases your heart rate and causes you to break a light sweat can count as exercise, so get creative! Many people simply add extra walking to their day. The goal is to get active and stay active by doing things you enjoy, from gardening to playing tennis to walking with friends. The more engaged you are, the more likely you are to stick with it.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can talk to your health care team about which activities will be safe for you. Their advice will depend on the condition of your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, feet and nervous system. Your provider may even recommend local classes or exercise groups that you could join.
You know yourself and your situation best. Would you prefer a solo workout such as jogging, or a group setting like a spinning class or softball league? Do you prefer the great outdoors or to watch TV as you crank away on an elliptical machine? Do you have time for a leisurely one-hour walk or would a shorter, higher-intensity workout fit better in your schedule? If you’re on a budget, consider sticking to something like walking, which only requires a good pair of shoes, or an inexpensive workout DVD you can use at home.
If you dread lacing up your sneakers every morning or that post-work drive to the gym, you may need to try something new. And don’t limit yourself to just one activity; variety can keep boredom at bay.
Find your motivation: If you aren’t in the habit of exercising, getting motivated is half the battle. Whenever you feel the urge to skip a workout, think about the reason you’re exercising, whether it’s to have more energy, to lose or maintain weight, to relieve stress, to enhance your self-esteem, or to improve your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Sometimes if you simply commit to getting to the gym, or setting the treadmill for a mere 10 minutes, you’ll keep going and complete your normal workout. Remind yourself that you’ve done this before and can do it again—and perhaps then some!
Plan for success: People with prediabetes or diabetes, and the general adult public should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Set yourself up for success by marking each workout on your calendar, just as you would any other commitment. If you’re a morning exerciser, set your clothes out the night before so you can change into them as soon as you wake up. If you have a gym membership, always pack a bag when you leave the house—no excuses!
Are you a music lover? Fill your portable media player with tunes that you love, that inspire you and that have a good beat. The minutes will fly by as you enjoy your personalized workout playlist!
Track your progress, be patient and enjoy the results: Your goal may be to complete a 5K, or simply be better able to pick up and carry your children or grandchildren. Log your activity and progress in a notebook, calendar, spreadsheet, cell phone or online activity tracker. Results won’t happen overnight, and this history will help demonstrate how far you’ve come.
Once you get moving, you’ll find that it isn’t as hard to keep going—especially since you’ll feel better and more energetic as time goes on. After a few weeks of regular exercise, you may even start craving the exhilaration that comes with it and join the ranks of many others who have said, “I never thought I’d ever be a runner, cyclist, swimmer, Zumba addict, Pilates devotee, _____.” (How would YOU fill in the blank?)
What’s your favorite form of exercise? What motivates you to keep moving?