How to jump start your exercise program

Getting started or restarted on the road to better health.
 

Sheri Colberg-Ochs By Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD

You may have started out with the best of intentions to become more fit, and you may even have invested in some new walking shoes—so why are they still sitting in the box next to your brand-new pair of polyester-blend athletic socks? My expert diagnosis is that your exercise program needs a jump start!

Take it one day at a time
Have you ever heard it said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over again, but expecting different results every time? Certainly, you don't have to dramatically change everything about your lifestyle all at once, but effectively preventing and controlling your diabetes is going to involve doing something differently… permanently. If "exercise" is a bad word around your house, you simply have to change your way of thinking about it. For starters, call it "physical activity" or "moving more" or something else with a less negative connotation. The easiest way to get started is by just getting more active throughout the day: sit less, stand more, walk extra steps, and even fidget more consistently. You won't even realize that what you're doing counts as exercise. Start today, and take it one day at a time.

Lose the diets
If some weight loss is your goal, do yourself a favor and do not follow any drastic fad diet or unbalanced diet plan. The healthy nutritional changes that you implement for yourself should never be interpreted as "going on a diet," which implies that the "diet" will end at some point. If you avoid calling your meal plan a "diet," you will have a much more positive attitude toward the changes you make. Dieting also makes you feel cranky and tired, which is likely to keep you from wanting to exercise. Since most diets fail at some point if permanent changes are not made, you will likely gain the weight back afterward anyway—unless you adopt a healthier eating plan and get more active in general.

Just gaining or retaining your muscle mass through physical activity will increase round-the-clock energy expenditure without your giving it a thought. Besides, several recent studies have shown that the best way to lose that spare tire around your middle is to do any type of exercise. Dieting by itself (without exercise) results in greater loss of your muscle and less reduction in abdominal fat. So, start moving more in any way possible, give up dieting, develop a healthy relationship to eating in general, and live well in spite of diabetes and at any body weight.

Keep reminding yourself that exercise can save your life
Regular exercise can lessen the potential impact of most of your cardiovascular risk factors, including elevated cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertension. High blood pressure is associated with higher levels of insulin, and regular physical activity can result in lower blood pressure and reduced circulating levels of insulin. If you do nothing but regular walking, it can lengthen your life. In fact, walking more is likely the best and easiest medicine for both the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Thus, good blood sugar control, if you achieve it with the help of regular physical activity, has the potential to prevent or delay almost all of the potential long-term health complications of diabetes, and it's never too late to get started reaping the health benefits.

Why, then, do so many people still consider exercise to be a punishment of some sort to be avoided at all cost? Proof of this misperception is everywhere. For instance, in one recent study, 64 male and 112 female Mexicans ages 30 to 75 (average age 55 years) with type 2 diabetes reported following the correct dose of prescribed diabetes pills or insulin 78% of the time and eating recommended food portions more than 50%, but exercising three or more times per week only 44% of the time, making exercise the least-adhered-to part of their diabetes care plans. Your adherence to exercise is likely to be worse if you're depressed or have a history of excessive alcohol intake. Of greater importance, however, is the fact that you'll be most likely to follow the recommendations for effective self-care if you are more knowledgeable about diabetes, regularly check your blood sugars at home, have good health, and communicate better with your doctor.

Use fitness to break out of depression or apathy
Thus, it appears gaining knowledge about diabetes is the first step to increasing your adherence to better diabetes self-care and to attaining good health. It's also important to find ways to alleviate feelings of depression; when you're depressed or in an emotional funk of any sort, the last thing you usually feel motivated to do is anything resembling exercise. The irony of physical activity, though, is that it reduces depressive symptoms and anxiety, so keep in mind that your current sedentary state may actually be contributing to your lack of motivation! To break this vicious cycle and to better motivate yourself to get more active, try following some or all of the motivational tips given below.

Tips for Keeping Your Exercise Motivation Strong

  • Get yourself an exercise buddy (or even a dog who needs to be walked).
  • Use sticker charts or other motivational tools to track your progress.
  • Schedule structured exercise into your day on your calendar or "To Do" list.
  • Break your larger goals into smaller, realistic stepping stones (e.g., daily and weekly physical activity goals).
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals with non-caloric treats or outings.
  • Plan to do fun physical activities that you really enjoy as often as possible.
  • Wear a pedometer (at least occasionally) as a reminder to take more daily steps.
  • Have a backup plan that includes alternate activities in case of inclement weather or other barriers to your planned exercise.
  • Distract yourself while you exercise by reading a book or magazine, watching TV, listening to music or a book on tape, or talking with a friend.
  • Don't start out exercising too intensely or you're likely to get discouraged or injured.
  • If you get out of your normal routine and are having trouble getting restarted, simply take small steps in that direction.

For more information on all of the mental benefits of physical activity, please consult my new book, The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight. Check my Web site (www.shericolberg.com) for more details or to order a copy today.

Read Sheri's bio here.

Read more of Sheri Colberg-Och's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: June 27, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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