Get Your Body Moving – Without Losing Motivation!

When you are at risk of, or have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a change in lifestyle is usually required and there’s no better time that the New Year to implement these positive changes.

People often associate diabetes management with diet, and while healthy eating is indeed an integral part of the process, incorporating exercise into your life is equally as important.

“Exercise has been shown in studies to be as good, or even better, than some leading diabetes medications for managing blood glucose levels,” says Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Exercise Physiologist Kate Save.

That’s because when we contract our muscles during physical activity, we increase the amount of glucose that moves from the blood to the muscles, decreasing blood glucose levels.

Generally speaking, glucose uptake into the muscles is dependent on insulin. However when muscles contract, glucose is able to enter the muscle cells.

According to diabetes educator Leanne Mullan, physical activity also lowers blood glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity.

“The body’s cells are more easily able to use available insulin to help transport glucose from the blood to the cells during and after physical activity, lowering the blood glucose level,” says Mullan.

“Physical activity also improves the function of certain proteins that assist with glucose transport (GLUT-4 transporters) from the blood to body cells.”

But old habits are hard to break and establishing a new ones can be just as difficult.

“Start to make time for exercise by getting up earlier every day, or simply going for a walk on your lunch break. Walking and using public transport rather than driving to work can also be beneficial,” says Save.

While many people kick off a New Year exercise program with a healthy level of enthusiasm, going too hard, too soon can have a negative impact long term.

“Many people burn themselves out either physically or emotionally,” says Save.

“Therefore it’s best to start with an easy, light and less committed exercise program that doesn’t seem too overwhelming to stick to.

“Then advance it over time with advice from a professional, rather than scale back the other way.”

When you’re not used to exercise, there are plenty of barriers to getting started and staying motivated. And when you have Type 2 diabetes, the whole process can feel a little bit daunting.

“I think the fear of hypos when activity is increased is very real for some people also,” says Mullan.

“That’s why, for anyone commencing an exercise regimen or planning to increase their level of physical activity, it’s so important to see their diabetes health care team for advice before hand.”

Keeping on track!

Finding out you have Type 2 diabetes – or even being at risk of developing the condition – can be a challenging experience. Having to then make major lifestyle changes can make the process even more overwhelming.

But that shouldn’t deter you from making the necessary, positive lifestyle changes, and there’s no better time than the New Year to implement change. So, consider these tips on your path to better health and to help keep you motivated and committed throughout the entire year.

  • Timing – choose the same time each day with the least amount of barriers. For example, exercise before work rather than after work, just in case you get stuck in traffic, a meeting runs overtime or you’re simply too tired.
  • Experts – seek help from an exercise physiologist for a program that you will enjoy but also benefit from. People with diabetes may be eligible for a Chronic Disease Management (CDM Plan) plan from their GP which will enable them to have up to 5 visits per year with health professionals such as dietitians and exercise physiologists, to help better manage their diabetes better.
  • Healthcare team – check in with your GP; your doctor or diabetes team may make suggestions regarding the amount of medication you take before or directly after physical activity.
  • Support – find something you enjoy, or a comfortable environment to exercise in. Start with a friend so you feel committed to show up and don’t feel as scared, self-conscious or bored. Let your friend know you have diabetes and discuss hypo symptoms with them so they can help if necessary.
  • Start slow – start with a 4-6 week walking program and then introduce other activities once you are feeling fitter, healthier and more motivated. Ideally, a person with diabetes should be doing at least 30 minutes of exercise most days.
  • Be prepared – carry a hypo kit including jellybeans or glucose tablets as well as a longer acting carbohydrate such as a muesli bar.
  • Reward yourself – use healthy rewards such as indulging in a massage, facial, night at a hotel, magazine, or new book for reaching particular goals.

According to Leanne Mullan, motivation is the same for people with our without diabetes.

“We all work long hours, we have families, we have comorbidities, and we’re tired, so physical activity drops to the bottom of the priority list.”

“For people with Type 2 diabetes, explaining how regular physical activity can improve blood glucose management might just be the motivating factor that helps them start the process of increasing their daily physical activity.”

So, grab a friend, pop on a pair of runners, and take the first step towards a healthier, happier you.

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