Don’t let the cold weather slow you down
Staying physically active can be a challenge for many people with diabetes, especially when the winter cold sets in. But the benefits of maintaining a fitness regime are huge — and doing so is not as hard to accomplish as you may think.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), physical activity lowers blood glucose levels; lowers blood pressure; burns calories (which helps you maintain a healthy weight); improves blood flow (reducing the risk of complications); improves your mood; may prevent falls; may improve your memory; and may even help you to sleep better. Who doesn’t want all that?
What’s more, you don’t have to engage in long workouts at the gym to reap the rewards of better health. Experts advise moving at least 150 minutes per week, but researchers have shown that doing so in short bursts — as little as ten minutes each — can be just as effective (if not more so) than longer workouts for weight loss, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and preventing heart disease.
So, if exercising for 30 minutes five times a week sounds as though it’s more than you can handle, don’t fret. Find ways to work physical activity into your day at regular intervals that fit your lifestyle. And, remember, though moderate to vigorous physical activity is ideal, any movement is better than none at all.
ESTABLISHING A SAFE ROUTINE
Here are some tips from NIDDK for staying active safely.
Drink up. Staying hydrated is important, so drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise.
Plan ahead. Consult with your healthcare team before embarking on any new fitness routine. In addition to finding the right amount and type of exercise for your health and mobility level, your healthcare provider can help you factor in any diabetes medications that you are taking, how to balance activity levels with insulin (if you are taking it) and how exercise will affect what you should eat and when.
Prevent low blood glucose. Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels, which can result in hypoglycemia. This can happen after a long, intense workout, or if you skip a meal before exercising. Be aware that this doesn’t always happen right away and could be delayed as many as 24 hours following physical activity. You may need to check blood glucose levels before, during and after physical exercise. Your provider may suggest that you take less insulin or have a small snack to keep your levels in the correct range.
Take care of your feet. Diabetes can cause problems with your feet due to poor blood flow and nerve damage. Be sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes while exercising, and check your feet before and after exercise for any problems, such as blisters.
WORKING EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAY
Want to stay active but don’t want to join a gym to do so? Here are some other options to help keep you moving in the right direction.
Brisk walking. Walking is free, and can be done alone or with family or friends. When the weather allows, walk around your neighborhood or on a favorite walking trail. You can take short walks on your lunch break at work. When it’s too cold or wet outside, take a walk inside your local mall. Many malls open early for walkers so you can get those steps in before the crowds arrive to shop.
Aerobics. Aerobic activity makes your heart beat faster and is great for cardiovascular fitness. In addition to brisk walking, aerobic activities include climbing stairs, swimming, dancing, biking (or riding a stationary bike), taking exercise classes and engaging in sports such as basketball or tennis.
Strength training. Strength training is a lighter or more moderate activity that helps build muscle. It keeps your bones healthy and also helps you lose weight, because the more muscle you have (and the less body fat), the more calories you will burn. Strength training can be done with elastic bands, hand weights or weight machines. You can do it at home or at the gym.
Stretching. Stretching is also considered light or moderate physical activity, and can be done almost anywhere. It increases your flexibility, lowers stress and prevents soreness.
Stretching isn’t just what we do before exercising — it can be done on its own, such as with yoga. There are many types of yoga, a kind of stretching that focuses on breathing and helps with balance, strength and relaxation. Yoga can be done at home or in a yoga studio as part of a class.
Commercial breaks. Exercise can be woven throughout your day and become part of almost anything you do. Sitting at your desk too long? Try some leg lifts or extensions. Stand up and do some torso twists.
Watching TV while it’s raining or snowing outside? Get up and walk in place for ten minutes. Do some side lunges and overhead arm stretches.
Remember, you don’t have to sweat or exhaust yourself to stay fit. But you do need to keep moving — and you’ll feel better for it.