Most of us have heard that physical activity is important, but do you know how it impacts your type 2 diabetes or how it interacts with your treatment regimen? Exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, helping it work more efficiently in your body to lower your blood glucose levels. In addition to helping with your diabetes management, regular activity has many other health benefits and is important for your overall well-being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week
- Muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on two or more days a week
As of 2015, only 20.9 percent of adults met the physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. What keeps us from achieving the right amount of physical activity? For many, finding time can be a challenge. For others, simply knowing where to begin is the biggest hurdle.
Ready to get started? Here are eight ways to fit exercise into your day.
1. Pencil it in
Sometimes scheduling time for something, and blocking it off on your calendar, can help you stick to your plan. Carving out time for health is just as important as that meeting with your boss, so schedule accordingly. While you have that calendar open, make sure to schedule an appointment with a member of your healthcare team before you start adding physical activity to your day. It’s important to discuss how any medications you’re taking might be impacted by exercise. For example, if there’s a substantial increase in your activity level, your doctor might lower your basal insulin to prevent low blood sugar levels.
2. Know yourself
Let’s face it, waking up at 5 a.m. to jog before work or before getting the kids ready for school isn’t for everybody. Choose activities that you enjoy on a schedule that works for you and fits nicely with other aspects of your diabetes management plan such as specific times for meals and basal insulin or medication schedules. Whether that’s a dance class before dinner or chair yoga on your lunch break, the more you enjoy your routine, the more likely you are to stick with it. Sometimes part of knowing yourself is learning new things about yourself. Spice it up by trying new activities to see what works for you.
3. Break it down so it can add up
Even if you can’t find 30 minutes for working out all at once, a landmark study showed that breaking it up into a few sessions of 10 minutes or more can have similar health benefits. More recent research supports this approach as well. This might make it easier to envision exercise fitting into your daily routine, especially on your really hectic days. Try these suggestions for quick bouts of exercise:
- Break a sweat before your shower. Take 10 minutes to do some jumping jacks, squats, or lunges right before hopping in the shower.
- Break up the workday by exercising for 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes during lunch, and 10 minutes after work.
- Next time you’re waiting for your kids to finish soccer practice, park the car and walk around the track a few times to pass the time.
- Shopping at the mall? Take a few laps between stores, or park really far away instead of by the entrance.
4. Make the most out of chores
Next time you’re raking leaves, shoveling snow, or mopping the floors, pick up the pace to get your blood pumping. Cardio and a clean house — what’s not to love?
5. Limit screen time (or at least make the most of it)
Many of us feel like we’re too busy to exercise, but it turns out we’re spending a decent chunk of time scrolling through Facebook or zoning out in front of the TV. Try to set a limit for the amount of time you spend tuned into your phone, tablet, or TV, and dedicate the time you get back in your day to exercise.
If your nightly shows are too important to sacrifice, do reps of hand weights, lunges, or crunches while you watch or during commercial breaks. Or buy a bike, treadmill, or other small piece of equipment and put a TV in front of it. You can get your 30 minutes in while watching your favorite show!
Like video games? Use your TV or computer and hook up your favorite gaming system, and then start some active video gaming. Many systems now offer fitness video games that can keep you moving. Or you can find classes online and do them in the comfort of your own home.
6. Make your workday work for your health
If you spend most of your workday sitting in meetings or in front of a computer, there’s nowhere to go but up in terms of adding activity to your daily routine. There are plenty of ways to step it up:
- Take the stairs whenever you can.
- Walk to your co-worker’s desk instead of calling or emailing whenever possible.
- Take quick breaks once every hour or two to stretch, walk, or grab some water down the hall.
- Use a standing desk, or swap your chair for an exercise ball to help work your core.
- Join a group of co-workers to walk around the block at lunch.
- If possible, figure out a way to incorporate some exercise into your commute. If you take the subway, hop off a few blocks away from your usual stop and walk the rest. If you live in a bike-friendly city, trade the car ride for a bike ride when the weather permits. If you’re only choice is to drive, park in the last spot in the parking lot so you have to take a few extra steps to get to your desk.
7. Get social
Fitting in exercise with your friends and family can make the time go by more quickly. Try one of these suggestions:
- Making plans to catch up with a friend over dinner? Go to a Zumba class together beforehand.
- Feel like you owe a family member or friend a long phone call? Grab your headphones and walk while you talk on the phone.
- Speaking of family, why not get the whole crew involved? Take a trip to a local park and play soccer with your kids. Go for walks as a family after dinner. Sign up for a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Incorporating fun, healthy activities into your family’s schedule can have a lasting impact on making healthy choices in the future.
8. Track your trends
Fitness trackers and wearable devices have a number of benefits. First, you can see where you’re at right now in terms of daily activity. From there, you can set goals, monitor your progress, and celebrate when you reach milestones. Not only that, but if you’re monitoring your blood glucose or insulin levels with a wearable insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, you can compare the results and see trends over time between your physical activity and diabetes management. This is especially important as you work with your doctors to get your treatment regimen right after introducing more physical activity into your daily life.
There you have it: eight inspirational tips to help you get moving! Most importantly, have fun. Try to enjoy each step toward a healthier, happier life.