I'm writing this post as I've just returned from a two-hour bike ride. The endorphins are coursing through my veins, and I feel I just have to share: Did you know that exercise is medicine? It really, really is. Good medicine. Look: there's a whole global initiative on it.
We PWDs know that we're supposed to exercise, because it brings our blood sugar down and all, but it often seems like just another time-consuming diabetes chore — something we have to do over and over and over again without any real rewards, or...?
Actually there are rewards, both now and later. I find that with regular workouts, I feel better, my clothes fit better, and when my eating gets a little out of control, exercise snaps me back on track. That is, I may be hungrier, but I'm hungry for better foods, like salad and apples and lean meat, instead of chips and sweets.
Experts agree that aside from insulin, the most effective tool for glucose control is activity — any type of activity that moves your body through space. So do you? Move your body such that your heart rate is elevated on a regular basis? Here are the bennies, just as a reminder:
- reduces insulin resistance
- improves your glucose control, thus helping to lower your A1C
- reduces your blood pressure
- lowers your LDL numbers ("bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides
- helps raise low HDL numbers (i.e. increases your "good" cholesterol)
- reduces your chance of heart disease
- improves your mood
- helps with weight control
This being National Diabetes Awareness Month, I love that fellow D-blogger Ginger Vieira issued a simple "exercise challenge" this month: check your glucose levels before and after exercise, which is of course what the Big Blue Test campaign is also highlighting for World Diabetes Day Nov. 14.
btw, the Exercise is Medicine initiative mentioned above is all about lobbying primary care physicians and other health care providers to actually prescribe exercise as part of patients' treatment plans.
An article describing it in Sunday's Parade magazine, "When Doctors Prescribe Medicine," explains how people often ignore doctor's "advice" to exercise, but tend to take "doctor's orders" more seriously. Several studies in Spain, New Zealand and Scandinavia showed that patients who received a paper prescription for exercise were indeed much more likely to ramp up their activity level.
If written orders are what it takes to motivate some people, then let's go for it! The American Academy of Family Physicians and similar US groups should be pressuring their members to write exercise scripts left and right.
Meanwhile, here's my challenge to YOU this month: try to find a way to like exercise better. The more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to stick with it. And we all know that the real challenge with any exercise routine is keeping it up over time.