You may have started the new year out with the best of intentions to increase your fitness and better manage your diabetes by exercising regularly. If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the disease, deciding to commit to fitness could be a real lifesaver. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you make sure this decision sticks. Here are some motivational tips for getting started being more active.
Check Your Blood Glucose: When you start a new exercise, checking your blood glucose before, sometimes during, and after your workout pays off. A reading that changes — especially in the direction that you want it to — can be very rewarding and motivating. If you don’t check, you may never realize what a positive impact you can have on your diabetes simply by being active. For example, if your blood glucose is too high after you eat a meal, and you want it to go lower without taking (or releasing) any more insulin. You can exercise after your meal and bring your blood glucose down within two hours after eating and taking insulin, or you can avoid or lower post-meal spikes.
Start with Easier Activities: Start slowly with easier activities and progress cautiously to harder ones. Exercising too hard right out of the gate is likely to make you end up discouraged or injured, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. If you often complain about being too tired to exercise, your lack of physical activity is likely what’s making you feel sluggish. After you begin doing even light or moderate activities, your energy levels rise along with your fitness, physical condition, and mental health.
Pick Activities You Enjoy: Most adults need exercise to be fun, or they lose their motivation. It’s human nature to avoid doing the things you really don’t like to do, so try to pick activities you truly enjoy, such as salsa dancing or golfing (as long as you walk and carry your own clubs). Having fun with your activities lets you more easily make them a permanent and integral part of your diabetes management. If you haven’t found any that you enjoy much yet, choose some new ones to take out for a test run (so to speak).
Spice It Up: It's essential for motivation to mix your workouts up with different activities. People commonly complain about exercise being boring. Feelings of boredom with your program can be the result of repeating the same exercises each day. To make it more exciting, try different physical activities for varying durations and at different intensities. Knowing that you don’t have to do the same workout day after day is motivating by itself.
Have a Plan B: Always have a backup plan that includes other activities you can do in case of inclement weather or other barriers to your planned exercise. For example, if a sudden snowstorm traps you at home on a day you planned to swim laps at the pool, be ready to walk on the treadmill or substitute some of resistance activities. You can always distract yourself during your second-choice exercise to make the time pass more pleasantly. Read a book or magazine, watch your favorite TV program, listen to music or a book on tape, or talk with a friend on the phone while you’re working out.
Get an Exercise Buddy (or Several): You don’t need to go it alone when being active. Having a regular (and reliable) exercise buddy increases your likelihood of participating, and it also makes your activities more social and fun. Get your spouse, family members, friends, and co-workers to join in your physical activities, regardless of what time of day you do them. Having a good social network to support your new or renewed exercise habit helps you adhere to it over the long run.
Schedule It: Put your planned exercise down on your calendar or to-do list like you would other appointments. You show up for your doctor appointments, so why should scheduling your physical activity be any different? Never make the mistake of assuming it’ll happen just because you claim that you want to do it a certain number of days per week or month. It takes some planning ahead and the commitment to make it a priority.
Set Goals and Reward Yourself: Setting goals helps keep your interest up. For instance, if you walk for exercise, you may want to get a pedometer and set a goal of adding in 2,000 more steps each day. Break your larger goals into smaller, realistic stepping-stones (such as daily and weekly physical activity goals) for all your active lifestyle changes, and use SMART goals. Trackers, activity logs, and other motivational tools are also widely available online. Tip: Reward yourself when you reach your exercise goals (but preferably not with food).
Get More Spontaneous Physical Activity: You don’t have to work out at a high intensity to help diabetes and weight management. You can also add physical movement all day long doing anything you want to, including gardening, housework, and many other spontaneous physical activities. For instance, if you have a sedentary desk job take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever you can. Walk to someone else’s office or the neighbor’s house to deliver a message instead of relying on the phone or email. Or park your car at the far end of the parking lot and walk the extra distance. Guess what? You’ve just gotten yourself more active without giving it much thought.
Take Small Steps: If you get out of your normal activity routine and are having trouble getting restarted, simply take small steps in that direction. You may need to start back at a lower intensity by using lighter weights, less resistance, or a slower walking speed. Starting out slowly with small steps helps you avoid burnout, muscle soreness, and injury. Even doing only 5 to 10 minutes at a time (rather than 30 or more) is fine. After you’re up and moving, you may feel good enough to exceed the time you planned on doing in the first place. The key is to begin by any means possible.