“There’s strong evidence indicating it’s important for people to move more,” says Charlotte Hayes, MMSc, MS, RD, CDE*, author of The “I Hate to Exercise” Book for People With Diabetes. In fact, the amount most Americans are sitting down every day, rather than standing, walking, or doing almost anything else, has become the focus of several scientific studies and medical reports lately. “But becoming more active doesn’t have to mean formal exercise sessions,” says Hayes. “Rather than training for a marathon, what I think matters most is continuing to move throughout the day. You can hate to exercise but love to get moving!”
Here are a few of Hayes’s “I hate to exercise” ways to work in more activity. However you choose to become more active, always talk to your healthcare team before starting any exercise plan. And try these exercise tips that may help you get started as well.
Take activity breaks
“To break the cycle of sedentary behavior, get out of your chair,” says Hayes. “If you’ve been sitting for one or two hours – which is easy during a meeting or work – get up and move for a few minutes.” You can walk to the water cooler, check on the laundry, or even do a bit of tidying up around your home or office. “Researchers call this ‘breaking up sitting’ and it’s basically any normal, everyday activity that helps you build in bouts of activity throughout the day. In fact, you might be better off than a person who spends half an hour at the gym and then sits for the rest of the day,” says Hayes.
To move more, think about the times you’re already active, and then find ways to lengthen those periods or repeat them throughout the day. “This can mean doing some of the standard things you’ve heard before, like parking farther away from the store or the office,” says Hayes. “Or finding new ways to stand and walk more, like wearing a headset for phone calls so you can stand or pace as you talk. Over the span of hours, days, and weeks, the accumulated minutes of movement may add up to burning more calories and making a difference in how you feel. If you’re watching the clock, make your goal a minimum of 150 minutes of activity each week – or about thirty minutes a day.”
It can be tedious to record each individual minute of activity, particularly if those include fifteen-second walks to the bathroom or kitchen. “Another easy way to record movement, particularly walking, is with a pedometer,” says Hayes. “These gadgets, which start at under ten dollars, measure each and every step you take, from dashes to answer the phone to actual fitness walks. “
“To get started, measure your baseline,” suggests Hayes. “Wear the pedometer for a week and note your daily and weekly steps. Then set goals to increase your step count over time. The goal is to get 10,000 steps per day, but I encourage people living with diabetes to just keep building up from whatever level they start at,” says Hayes. “Move gradually toward your goal by adding an extra 500 or 1,000 steps each week to build strength and endurance.”
Add in structured exercise
Hayes adds, “As you become more fit, you may find it is harder to sit down for long periods of time, as if you have extra energy to burn or your body craves movement! I’ve seen so many people start out dreading the idea of exercise, and getting to a point where they actually look forward to it.” It’s at this point that structured exercise may work its way into your schedule in the form of fitness classes, a walking group, or a new piece of equipment such as a bike or treadmill.
If you’re not sure where to start, Hayes recommends trying these four exercises, which can be done without heading to a gym or even putting on workout clothes (be sure to get up and move between the seated exercises):
- Core Contractions: Sit up with good posture and put one hand on your belly. Draw your abdominal muscles in so your belly pulls back toward your spine. Release the abdominal contraction then do it again. Do 10 reps, and then rest. Repeat throughout the day. This abdominal strengthening move can also be done standing.
- Leg Extensions: Sit tall in chair with both feet flat on the ground. Slowly straighten your right knee, lifting your shin so it’s parallel with the floor. Lower the leg and repeat. Do 10 times right and 10 times left. Rest, then repeat throughout the day. To challenge the quads, try doing this exercise with light ankle weights.
- Bicep Curls: Sit or stand while holding light weights. Lift your arms in front of your shoulders and turn your palms up to face the ceiling. Keep your upper arms still as you bend your elbows, moving the weights toward your shoulders. Open the arms to the start position, then do it again. Do ten repetitions. Rest, then repeat throughout the day.
- Tricep Extensions: Sit or stand while holding light weights at your sides next to your hips. Sweep your arms behind your hips, with palms facing one another. Bend your elbows slightly, keeping your elbows lifted. Straighten your arms, working your triceps, keeping arms behind the rest of your body. Do ten repetitions. Rest, then repeat throughout the day.
Find a list of more things to do when you’re sneaking in movement here. For more articles to help reach your fitness goals, check out the Getting Started exercise series in The DX archive.
Jessica Cassity is a health reporter for SELF, Fitness, and Shape magazines, and the author of Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You. She is a Portland-based Pilates and yoga teacher and blogs at thehappyandhealthyblog.com. Cassity is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, 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.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience