Most people with diabetes are concerned about what they can and cannot eat, if they can avoid taking medications to control diabetes, specifically insulin, and how many times a day they need to monitor their blood sugar. A very important part of any diabetes treatment plan is exercise, but this seems to be the hardest thing for people with and without diabetes to do.
Often exercise is thought of as a dirty word or something that isn't achievable. When I talk to patients about exercise, most will say they know they should exercise but give many reasons why they don't. Lack of time, no energy, access to safe walking areas, physical limitations, and hating exercise are all excuses.
Here are some tips that might help both diabetics and those without diabetes get moving:
- Find something that you like to do; it will be easier to continue for the long term. This may mean trying a few different activities before you find the one that fits your life.
- Is there something that you enjoyed doing as a child that you could do now? Think of it as play instead of exercise and you just might feel younger and energized.
- Find a buddy to join you. A friend or a group that exercises with you gives you a chance to interact socially and you may just forget that you are exercising. A pet can be a great buddy when it comes to exercise. It only takes a few times to establish a walking routine with your dog, and they will won't let you back out easily of this daily activity.
- If time is an issue, try breaking thirty minutes of exercise into two fifteen minute segments, or three ten minute segments. Check your schedule and find minutes wasted that you could turn into exercise time.
- If thirty minutes of exercise is too scary because you feel out of shape and know you can't do that much, start small and build up slowly.
- If you are not able to walk or bike due to physical restrictions, weight lifting or chair exercises may be the answer for you. These types of exercise will help build muscle and that uses glucose for fuel, thus lowering the amount of glucose in the blood.
- People with arthritis and bad joints might find swimming and water aerobics a good choice for them because there is no weight put on the joints to cause pain.
- If there are no safe walking/biking areas where you live, look for areas that are safe that you may frequent often. Maybe a park or path close to your work or grocery that you could use before you shop or after work.
- Think of exercise as "activity", time spent moving your body. You can sneak in these moments throughout the day easily. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in the back of the parking lot, carrying bags of groceries into the house one at a time will all give you extra steps each day that add up to big results.
- Think of exercise the same as you would your diabetes medicine. It needs to be taken everyday to provide good control. The same goes for exercise, it needs to be practiced regularly to be most effective.
Everyone should be physically active to maintain good health, but it is especially important if you have diabetes because it helps cells use sugar in the blood for energy and that means lower blood glucose readings. Talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise plans and "take it" faithfully just like you would your medications.
Mount Nittany Medical Center is offering a Healthy Living with Diabetes Summer Education Series. The first program is "Healthy Steps" on Thursday, June 14. On July 12, the nutrition education program: "Basic Carbohydrate Counting" will be held; and on August 9, "Managing Insulin Resistance" will be presented. All programs will be at 6:00 pm. in Conference Room 1 and 2.
Amy Leffard, RN, is the diabetes educator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.