Strategies for increasing your energy level
So, your new goal is simply to be as physically active as possible during the day to maximize caloric expenditure and blood sugar use, and you don't necessarily have to join the nearest gym! Instead, just take the stairs instead of the elevator (and do this several times a day), park your car at the far end of the lot from where you're headed, walk in place during all the TV commercials, and then take the dog out for a walk! For motivation, you may want to invest in an inexpensive pedometer (step counter) and try to add at least 2,000 steps a day to your current activity level. By all means, if you would like to do more "structured" exercise, such as using a treadmill, stationary cycle, rower, or other aerobic workout machine, feel free! Start out slowly, exercising a minimum of three days a week for 20-30 minutes a day, and gradually work up to 45-60 minutes per day and/or five days per week.
You may not know that resistance (weight) training is just as important as aerobic exercise for diabetes control. Such training can increase insulin sensitivity, as well as lower your risk for thinning bones and loss of muscle mass with aging. The current recommendation is to train 2-3 nonconsecutive days per week and include all the major muscle groups of the body. Some examples of exercises are bicep curls, abdominal crunches, bench presses, leg presses, lunges, and calf raises. Pick a weight or resistance that you can lift 8-12 times and do a minimum of one set (preferably 2-3 sets) on each exercise. If all you can manage to fit in is one set once a week, don't despair – you'll still experience some strength gains. You can also fit in some "unstructured" weight training by lifting items around the house (including kids and grandkids). Include stretching exercises a minimum of two days per week to maximize strength gains and minimize the loss of flexibility caused by aging and accelerated by diabetes.
Finally, keep in mind that almost everyone can exercise safely and effectively. Diabetes bestows additional risks on exercisers; however, you can still exercise to your maximal potential as long as you respect your limitations. For example, if you have lost some of the feeling in your feet, consider switching to activities such as swimming or stationary cycling to minimize potential trauma to your feet common with walking and jogging. If you have high blood sugars, drink plenty of fluids during and after exercise to prevent dehydration. If you are having problems with diabetic eye disease, avoid jumping, jarring, or breath-holding activities. When in doubt, talk to your doctor and follow the exercise guidelines published by the American Diabetes Association, and remember to include proper warm-up and cool-down periods (3-5 minutes done at a lesser intensity before and after an activity) to ease the cardiovascular transition and minimize your risk for orthopedic injuries.
Although exercise is more work than just popping a pill or two to control your diabetes, it is well worth the effort. Just start by being as active as you can each and every day – and start reaping health and fitness benefits!
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.
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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.
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