There’s a lot to learn when you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: food choices, portion sizes, carbohydrate counts, and blood sugar numbers. It’s enough to make you want to flop down on the couch and take a nap! But there’s something else that will really help you manage your diabetes and it can be lots of fun, too… physical activity!
Activity of any kind is great for everyone, but especially so for people with type 2 diabetes. Exercise helps your body use insulin better, relieves stress, reduces your risk of heart disease, lowers blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol. All those benefits from just 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week!
Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, as there may be specific instructions you should follow.
Here are some tips for incorporating more activity and exercise into your daily routine:
Keep it simple. Walking is a fantastic way to get started with an exercise plan. If you’ve been a couch potato, take it slow at first and try a five or ten minute walk. You can build up your time each week by adding an additional 5 minutes, until you reach your target of 30 minutes a day. If doing 30 minutes all at once is difficult or time is a problem, you can break it into 3 10-minute walks. The goal is to walk fast enough that you can talk, but not sing.
Play. Think back to childhood – what did you enjoy doing? There are so many things to choose from – swimming, biking, hiking, karate, dancing, and tennis are just a few.
Join a team. Team sports provide a great source of motivation and the added benefit of accountability. Don’t think you need to be an all-star to participate; there are pickleball, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, and basketball teams for all different levels of ability and experience.
Join a gym. If you have a gym nearby, you’ll have access to equipment for strength training, which is an important activity for building muscle. Most gyms also have a great variety of classes that can be fun and motivating for all fitness levels, like aerobics, kickboxing, Zumba or yoga. It’s easy to vary your routine and try something new. Talk with one of the fitness trainers to find a routine that is best for you.
Invest in some home equipment. Many people prefer to exercise at home. There are many ways to do this without purchasing equipment – find workout videos on YouTube. You can also purchase some basic equipment such as resistance bands, a yoga mat, free weights, or a yoga ball – these are tools that can offer some variety to your workouts.
Compete. If you like a challenge, sign up for a walk, run, bike ride or even triathlon that will give you a goal to work toward. You can even do something that supports your favorite charity. There are also several free apps (like Nike+) that will allow you to set up a walking or running challenge with your friends and family. Competition can be a great motivator!
Change it up. If you get bored easily, you can choose from any of these suggestions to customize an activity plan to keep you motivated.
Learn more. Be sure to check our video to learn more about all the benefits of exercise. Hearing about all the things that exercise is doing for your body can sometimes be just the motivation you need to get moving…
Remember, If you take certain diabetes medicines (such as insulin or a sulfonylurea pill) – exercise might bring your blood sugar down too quickly. If so, it’s important to know the signs of hypoglycemia, and to exercise with a friend or wear a medical ID, and always carry a snack with you. Your doctor can advise you on when you need to check your blood sugar while exercising and what your blood sugar target should be.
So get up and start moving! In addition to managing your diabetes, you’ll reap many additional benefits that will keep you happy and healthy.