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Everyday Challenge: What If I Can’t Exercise Today?

Tips for adding physical activity to a daily routine

I know exercise is good for me, and my healthcare team stresses the importance of consistency for good blood sugar management. But some days, I just can’t find time for a workout. What else can I do?

Exercise is indeed a valuable part of improving your overall well-being, and structured, regular exercise may help regulate blood glucose levels. In their Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes –2016, the American Diabetes Association states that “exercise has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, contribute to weight loss, and improve well-being.”

The Association’s Standards makes a distinction between physical activity (“a general term that includes all movement that increases energy use”) and regular exercise, which they define as “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (50-70% of maximum heart rate), spread over at least three days per week with no more than two consecutive days without exercise.” While the Association notes that both are considered an important part of one’s diabetes management plan, they emphasize that regular exercise “may prevent type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals” and structured exercise has been shown to lower A1C in people already living with T2. (Be sure to check with your healthcare team before beginning or modifying an exercise routine.)

But the effects are temporary. The benefits of regular physical activity generally diminish within two to three days. Thus, regular physical activity, as part of an overall diabetes management plan, may help maximize the potential benefits.

(Get more information on blood sugar levels and exercise, including a chart for tracking physical activity and consult with your healthcare team before beginning or modifying an exercise routine.)

Sneaky ways to keep moving

In addition to your regular exercise routine, you can also keep active in other ways. Household chores, such as heavy cleaning (vacuuming, folding laundry, washing windows) may help keep you physically active, even when your schedule is tight. So might yard work such as raking leaves, mowing the grass, or playing with pets or taking them on an extended walk. When you have errands to run, consider walking or cycling rather than driving or taking the bus. And if you must drive, park at a distance to squeeze in as much walking as possible. In fact, lunchtime or after-work walks with coworkers might be a great way to invigorate yourself and get a second wind.

If part of your day involves taking care of children, entertain them with fun, calorie-burning activities like dancing, playing at the park or competing in active Wii Fit®–style video games. When traveling, keep in mind that many hotels have fitness centers with a few pieces of cardiovascular equipment and some hand weights that may be accessed at just about any time of day. Some airports even have stationary bikes and treadmills for passing the time while waiting for a flight. When you arrive at your destination, consider taking a walk or jog outdoors … it’s a great way to experience the local sights and general atmosphere. (Get more sneaky exercise ideas.)

Doing double duty

There’s nothing that says you can’t accomplish two things at once while exercising. Stationary equipment such as bikes, treadmills, stair climbers and elliptical machines may be used (perhaps at a slower pace than usual) when there’s reading to do or people to talk with on the phone. Some people place their exercise equipment within easy reach of a computer keyboard and mouse in order to catch up on email or writing.

There are plenty of reasons, and more options than one might have thought possible, for staying active on a daily basis. Of course, there may be days when absolutely none of this is possible. We all run into situations when work or family responsibilities dominate, or we simply need a day of complete rest. But keep in mind that just as a regular exercise routine may improve insulin sensitivity, a lack of activity may contribute to insulin resistance. Talk with your healthcare team about possible options that may offset some gaps in physical activity.

Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE*, is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Masters-Level Exercise Physiologist who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more 28 years. He was named 2014 Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and has written six books, including Think Like a Pancreas. Scheiner and his clinical staff provide diabetes management consultations worldwide via phone and the Internet through his practice, Integrated Diabetes Services. Scheiner is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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