How to Kick Start Your New Year Exercise Regime
Along with quitting smoking and losing weight, committing to regular exercise is one of the most popular resolutions we make as the clock strikes 12 to usher in a brand new year of possibilities. For people with diabetes, resolving to move more is one of the best ways to help manage the condition. Here’s why exercise matters and how to make sure your resolution sticks – for good.
Exercise and diabetes
Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle for people at risk of diabetes, and for people with diabetes it’s especially important. Why? When you exercise, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, which helps them to work more efficiently.
“When our blood glucose levels rise our body releases a hormone called insulin, which signals to the insulin receptor to open a gate to take the glucose into the muscle cells,” says exercise physiologist Mark Simpson.
“Type 2 diabetes occurs because of insulin resistance, which decreases the body’s ability to uptake glucose into the muscle cell. As a result, our blood glucose levels stay higher. Exercise helps to improve the sensitivity of that insulin receptor.”
The result is lower blood glucose levels, which is the key to diabetes management. Plus, regular exercise reduces your risk of diabetes complications by helping you to maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Aerobic versus resistance training
As for which type of exercise is best, Simpson says it’s best to aim for a mix of aerobic exercise – anything that gets your heart rate up, like jogging, cycling or swimming – and resistance or weight training, which builds lean muscle mass.
“The research shows us that aerobic exercise and resistance training are equally effective in managing blood glucose levels via improvements in insulin sensitivity,” he says.
“However, when there’s a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise throughout the week, we see a super-compensation effect in terms of blood glucose management – akin to one plus one equals three. If you go for a walk in the morning and do some resistance-based exercises in the afternoon, even if that total time is the same as what you might have done just walking, we see improved effects.”
Simpson suggests aiming for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on five to seven days a week at moderate intensity, which he says is equivalent to about eight out of 10 on your personal effort scale.
For resistance training, Simpson says it’s best to aim for two to four sessions a week of four to eight exercises such as squats, push-ups or step-ups. During each session aim for two to four sets of eight t0 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Crucially, it’s best to complete shorter, more frequent workouts then save your energy for a two-hour session at the gym every few days. “Increased insulin sensitivity only lasts for 24 to 72 hours, so what matters is how often you can be active as opposed to how hard you can train or how long you train for,” says Simpson.
“If you run for an hour on a Monday then don’t do anything until Thursday, you’d be better off adding in a short walk each morning.”
Get into the habit
While there’s no doubt that choosing types of exercise you enjoy will help you stick to your resolution, research suggests that developing healthy habits is the real key to changing behaviour for good.
For the sake of efficiency – and in the interests of our sanity – the brain prefers repetitive behaviours over new actions. Associating a simple action with a consistent context is thought to help behaviours become habit. You might go to the gym after you finish work, take a yoga class every Monday, walk to the bus stop each morning or exercise in the commercial breaks during your favourite TV show. After a while these behaviours will become automatic, and come the end of the year your resolution will be intact.
One study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found a new health-related behaviour becomes automatic after an average of 66 days so it’s important to be patient. But, thankfully, missing the occasional day didn’t affect the habit-formation process.
“Exercise should be enjoyable and fun, but it’s also something that we just need to do to look after our bodies,” says Simpson. “It’s a bit like cleaning the house each week – it isn’t always fun, but it’s just something that needs to be done.”
Your five-step lounge room workout
This easy lounge room workout will deliver results, and the best bit is you won’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Complete one set of 10 to 15 repetitions for each of the five exercises during each commercial break of your favourite TV show.
Sit on the couch with your feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Slowly stand up and sit down.
Start from the push-up position with your hands on the back or side of the couch. Slowly lower your body down, then return to the starting position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly raise up onto your toes, then return to the starting position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart with dumbbells – or tins of canned food – in each hand at waist height. Lift the weights to your shoulders, then push them over your head until your arms are straight. Return to the starting position.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips towards the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly return to the starting position.