15 Exercise Tips for People With Type 2 Diabetes
Get a move on
Exercise is safe—and highly recommended—for most people with type 2 diabetes, including those with complications. Along with diet and medication, exercise will help you lower blood sugar and lose weight.
However, the prospect of diving into a workout routine may be intimidating. If you're like many newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics, you may not have exercised in years.
If that's the case, don't worry: It's fine to start slow and work up. These tips will help you ease back into exercise and find a workout plan that works for you.
Try quick workouts
"We need people with diabetes up and moving," Dr. Griffing says. "If you can do your exercise in one 30 minute stretch, fine. But if not, break it up into increments you can manage that add up to at least 30 minutes each day."
Focus on overall activity
However, don't rely on housework or other daily activity as your sole exercise. Too often, people overestimate the amount of exercise they get and underestimate the amount of calories they consume. (A step-counting pedometer can help.)
Get a pedometer
Having a goal of 10,000 steps a day (about five miles) was important, even if the goal wasn't reached. Pedometer users lost more weight, had a greater drop in blood pressure, and walked about 2,500 steps more per day than those who didn't use a pedometer.
Work out with a friend
Working out with friends can be an important motivator, particularly for people over 60, according to Vicki Conn, PhD, the associate dean for research at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., who has studied diabetes and exercise.
Having a friend call or setting up an exercise "contract" with a buddy may help. "One of the things we found with our meta-analysis is that behavioral strategies work better; that means setting up some sort of stimulus in the environment where you exercise," says Conn.
Set specific, attainable goals
"That doesn't sound like a lot, but...setting up very specific goals like that helps people a lot more than telling people, 'Gee, you've got to exercise more,' " says Conn.
Don't hold out for weight loss as an emotional "reward." Focus on other benefits, such as having more energy or enjoying the outdoors when you walk.
Use visual cues
Write it all down
Record on your calendar every day whether you exercised for 10 or 15 minutes or more.
Join a class
"There is a structured experience exercising and they will learn how their body will react and then they will grow more confident to go out and exercise on their own," she says.
Don't set goals too high
Look at the big picture
"What really matters is next year, you are doing it all the time," says Conn. "Getting there eventually in a way that you are able to stay with it is what is important because it is long-term behavior change that has health consequences."
Change one behavior at a time
"What we foundand this is across many studies with thousands of peopleif the study focuses only on changing one behavior, namely exercise, they get twice as much of an improvement in their hemoglobin A1C," says Conn.
Get an exercise "prescription"
"It's based on that individual's fitness stake," says Conn. "For a person that is very unfit, and has not been exercising, the exercise prescription will be at a low moderate intensity and then move to a slightly higher intensity and longer duration."