Physical activity is good for almost anyone, but if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, it’s even more important to work exercise into your daily routine. Research shows that staying active is an important component of preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes, and that there are benefits to staying active even if you don’t manage to lose weight in the process.
So how much time do you need, and just how active do you have to be?
The Dietary Guidelines for America, put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggest that adults should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Children and teens should aim for twice that amount.
What’s more, studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing just seven percent of your body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. By understanding your risk, you can take the steps necessary to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
But remember: Any physical activity you manage to work into your day is better than none!
With the spring and summer months approaching, and the weather beginning to warm up, now is a great time to think about getting outdoors and getting active. If you’ve never had a regular exercise routine before, don’t feel that you have to reach all of your goals immediately. Begin slowly, and work your way up to an activity level that fits your lifestyle.
Of course, going to the gym and taking an exercise class are some traditional ways to get a good workout, and some people find that having a gym membership can be a good motivator to stay active. But here are some other ways to work physical activity into your day and keep it there, particularly during the sunnier months of the year.
WALK IT OFF One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to get started building an exercise routine is to walk. Walk around your neighborhood, during your lunch break at work, around the track if there’s a school nearby, around the mall, or on a scenic hiking or jogging path in your area. Walk alone or with friends, neighbors or family members. Walk the dog. Walk to work. Park the car twice as far away from the store as you need to, and walk, walk, walk.
RIDE YOUR BIKE Another great way to get out and about when the weather warms up (or even when it’s cold for those who don’t mind) is to ride a bike. Many cities and towns have bike paths and dedicated bike lanes that make getting around easier for cyclists. This is also a great family activity and an excellent way to model physical activity for your kids as you get out there and begin to get fit.
RUN For those who are ready for something more strenuous than a neighborhood walk, consider taking up running. Like walking, this can be done indoors or out, on a track, a treadmill, a sidewalk, your neighborhood streets or a jogging path. Start out slowly, and try to build up to goals such as running in a 5K race. Got at your own pace — just go, go, go.
TENNIS, ANYONE? Tennis is another great way to get into shape, and can be played indoors or outside. Never played but want to give it a try? Sign up for lessons. Having a regularly scheduled hour of exercise that you’re paying for is one way to keep yourself motivated to show up each week.
DANCE, DANCE, DANCE Always wanted to learn the samba? Or belly dancing? Or how to waltz? Dancing is great exercise for you and your partner. Sign up for lessons, or just go out together and have fun.
CLEAN THE HOUSE Granted, it’s tough to work something extra into the day, so try doing some double duty. Clean the house or yard, and if you break a light sweat, it counts as exercise. Raking, weeding and mowing the lawn will get you there, but so might vacuuming and scrubbing the kitchen floors. Plus, your home will look nicer when you’re done!
GET OFF THE COUCH If you like to watch TV at night try spending some of that time in front of the tube moving instead of splayed out on the couch. Walk in place, do some boxer squats, crunches, push-ups or jumping jacks, while enjoying a favorite show.
Whatever you choose to do, you may want to incorporate stretching before and after exercise into your routine, to help your body warm up, to improve flexibility and to avoid injuries. But if stretching is not your thing, don’t worry: The most important thing is to just get moving!