Even with the best intentions it can be difficult to find ways to fit exercise into your day. Having a health condition such as diabetes only adds to the challenge. But because exercise is one of the best things you can do to keep your blood sugar under control, it’s essential to find a routine you can stick with.
Need help finding ways to commit to fitness? First, remember that “something —even if all you can squeeze in is a quick walk during your lunch break — is always better than doing nothing,” says Liz Neporent, M.A., a certified fitness trainer and author of a dozen fitness books, including The Ultimate Body. Some other ideas from Neporent include:
“No time” is exercise enemy No. 1. But here's the good news: You don't have to devote a solid hour, or even a half hour, to exercise in order to reap its benefits. Plenty of research shows that you can break up your routine into bouts of five, 10 or 15 minutes and still improve aerobic fitness levels, lose body fat, and lower blood pressure. So on the days when you don't have enough time to get in a full workout, take a brisk 15-minute walk at lunch and again after work. Try adding basic time-management strategies to your exercise routine. Choose a gym that's close to either home or work, "schedule" exercise on your calendar like you would any important appointment, or even get up earlier and get your workout out of the way first thing.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Life can get in the way of exercise, so if you are committed to sticking with a plan, flexibility is a must. Just consider the weather. It can be a major hurdle for people who like to exercise outdoors. When it's too hot to walk or jog outside, swim at an indoor pool instead. When it's too snowy to ride your bike, try snowshoeing. You must be willing to alter your routine when the temperature changes. For those worst-case scenarios when you simply can't leave the house, keep a stash of exercise tapes, a floor mat, and some light weights at home so you can still get in a workout.
Grab a Friend
Recruit one or two friends to exercise with you. Research shows that people who exercise with a buddy are more likely to stick with their program. And this way you can socialize and exercise at the same time. You might also consider taking up a new "social" sport such as golf or tennis, or join a running club and start training for a 10K that's a few months away. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to continue.
Mix It Up
Evertyone occasionally gets stuck in a exercise rut. The key to digging yourself out of it is to figure out what’s bugging you. Is it the activity? The place? The time? Sometimes the cure is changing just one of those things. If you're kickboxing on autopilot, maybe it's time to try pilates or power yoga, or get out of the gym altogether and go for a hike. You might try to devote one month to step aerobics and the next to tai chai; work your way through your club’s class schedule until you find something that inspires you. Or plan a "fitness" vacation, such as a hiking or biking trip, and then plot a plan to train for it. Mixing up your routine is good for your body (it helps prevent overuse injures) and your mind (it keeps you engaged in what you're doing).
What do you want for yourself? To reduce the diabetes medications you must take? Get thinner? Stronger? Faster? Deciding what you want to achieve is the first step toward getting it, Neporent says. The best way to ensure success — however you define it — is to set small, attainable goals along the way. The minigoals you create will vary depending on what you ultimately hope to accomplish. Do you want to walk a 10K or take a two-week walking tour of Tuscany? "Look at the big picture, but give yourself the stepping stones to get there," Neporent advises.
Here are some ideas to consider when setting your goals:
Write down one or two specific long-term fitness goals.
Give yourself three to six months to achieve them. For example: Complete a 5K (3.1 mile) walking event 12 weeks from today.
Write down short-term goals.
These are goals that you give yourself four to six weeks to achieve. If you had to wait three months or more for the "payoff," you might give up. So to stay motivated, chart your progress along the way. For example: Aim to be able to walk for 20 minutes, three or four a week by the end of this month. Another short-term goal might be to increase the amount of time you walk by one minute for each consecutive week until you can keep moving for 30 minutes.
Keep a log of your accomplishments.
If you get frustrated along the way, you can look back to see how much you've already done.
Give yourself credit along the way for what you've accomplished so far. When you've consistently exercised three or four times a week for eight weeks in a row, book that walking tour you've been dreaming of.