Diabetes Self-Management Blog

If you’re not currently doing any kind of physical activity on a regular basis (meaning, most days of the week), now’s a good time to ask yourself these two questions (there are no right or wrong answers here, either):

  • What kind of benefits will I get from being physically active?
  • What’s stopping me from being physically active?

To answer the first question, think about what’s important to you. Although it might seem strange, some people aren’t motivated by health; that is, even though you know exercise helps lower blood glucose, it’s just not enough to get you up off the couch to go for a walk.

So think about other ways that physical activity can help you. Maybe you want to keep up with your kids or grandkids. Maybe you’re tired of getting winded after bringing groceries into the house or going up and down stairs to do the laundry. Or maybe you want to look better or fit into your clothes.

To answer the second question, think long and hard (and be honest) about some of the barriers that keep you from being active.

Sometimes it’s hard for people to admit to barriers. Barriers to exercise often stem from childhood. For example, let’s say you were overweight as a child and never did particularly well in gym class. Maybe you were chosen last to be on the dodgeball team. Well, even though you’re now an adult, those painful memories might still be with you. Thinking about past experiences can dredge things up that are uncomfortable or things that you’d rather forget. Rest assured that this process is meant to help you A) be more active and B) actually enjoy being more active!

Breaking Down Barriers to Physical Activity
Okay, so back to the paper and pencil. Start writing down some of the “excuses,” er…barriers that you might use to drive past the gym after work or use your treadmill to hang your clothes. Nothing coming to mind? Here are a few popular ones to get you started. And as you write your list, also try to think of a way to “break” that barrier.

Barrier: I’m just too busy to exercise. OK, we know. You’re busier than anyone, what with your job, the kids, the housework…but hey, if the president of the United States can make time to exercise, shouldn’t you be able to? I don’t mean to be glib, but as common as this barrier is, it’s just not going to stick. Anyone can find time to be active.

Solution: Look long and hard at your daily schedule. Where could you fit in 20 or 30 minutes of physical activity? How about getting up 30 minutes earlier in the morning? Going for a walk at lunchtime or after supper? Using a stationary bike while you watch the nightly news? If you use an appointment book or a calendar, schedule an “appointment” to exercise.

Barrier: I’m too tired to be active. This one’s a catch-22. Sure, you’re tired after a long day, but you’re also tired because you don’t do enough activity (sorry, sitting at the computer all day doesn’t count!). The more active you are, the more energy you’ll have.

Solution: If you truly are just too weary after work, aim to do something in the morning or midday, if possible. And remember that you don’t have to run a marathon. Even doing 10 minutes, three times a day counts!

Barrier: Every time I try to be active, I have a low blood glucose reaction. That’s actually part of the beauty of being active—it lowers blood glucose levels. Use this to your advantage: You may be able to lower your HbA1c level, along with your medication dose.

Solution: Talk to your health-care team about safely decreasing your diabetes medication dose. Or, try to exercise after a meal, when you’re less likely to go low. Make sure you always take treatment for lows with you while you exercise, such as glucose tablets or glucose gel.

Barrier: I hate to exercise…I hate being hot and sweaty…I don’t like people looking at me. If joining a fancy health club, wearing Spandex, working out with Generation Xers (or Baby Boomers!), or ending up exhausted or dripping sweat is less than appealing, no problem. There’s something for everybody.

Solution: Think of some activities that you’d like to do (or at least would tolerate doing). Walking, swimming, using an exercise DVD, signing up for ballroom dancing lessons, or using a piece of exercise equipment in the privacy of your own home might be more appealing than joining a health club. And go at your own pace rather than trying to keep up with others.

Any barriers and solutions that you’d like to share?

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Get Moving! New Physical Activity Guidelines! (Part 1)
Get Moving! New Physical Activity Guidelines! (Part 2)
Get Moving! New Physical Activity Guidelines! (Part 3)
Get Moving! New Physical Activity Guidelines! (Part 4)


Comments
  1. Why did you not address the issue of physical pain that results from excerise? Particularly people with neuropathy that have pain after or with excerise.

    Posted by Susan |
  2. I have asthma that is exacerbated by scents, perfume, candles, hair spray, scented dryer sheets, cleaning supplies, anything that has a strong smell. So a gym membership is not for me. I also can no longer swim in a pool with chlorine. I also have fibromyalgia and osteo arthritis which brings up a different set of issues. I do however, try to get exercise every day. I walk to work, to the library, post office and second hand stores that are nearby as much as possible. I try and ride my exercise bike for at least 30 minutes a day. I love to be outside so some days instead of riding the bike I rake leaves in my yard or mow the lawn. It wears me out and it might take a few days to recover but I try to keep moving and take each day as it comes.

    Posted by Airborne mom |
  3. Hi Susan,
    One key barrier to being physically active is pain. However, even chronic pain sufferers can usually find a type of exercise that they can do; plus, many people who have pain find that doing the right type of activity may often lessen pain, as well. Some exercises that may be better tolerated for those with neuropathy pain include swimming or other types of water exercises; using a stationary bike; exercises that you can do sitting in a chair; yoga; and tai chi.

    Posted by acampbell |
  4. Hi Airborne mom,

    Thanks for sharing. You certainly have worked through your barriers to being active, and are an inspiration for all of us to be active!

    Posted by acampbell |
  5. For those who feel they don’t have time, I would suggest committing (scheduling) time for a week or so, and during the same period comparing time spent sleeping to the sleep time needed when not exercising. In my case, sleep time is reduced by at least the time spent exercising (including any change of clothes, rinsing down, etc.) - if not indeed by more. The quality of sleep also seems to be better. I end up with marginally more actual time each day, not to mention the virtual time gain from being more relaxed, alert, and productive. Good luck!

    Posted by Michael.Massing |
  6. I have type 2 diabetes and have developed an Excel workbook that monitors/records glucose test readings, carb intake, exercise minutes and it is helping me to gain control of my diabetes and lose weight as well. I am also in the process of retooling my workbook to assist my daughter in monitoring her son’s Type 1 diabetes. I would like to know, in general, how much I can discount a glucose reading based on a 30 or 60 minute exercise session (given that the glucose reading was at a reasonable level (< 250) so the exercise doe not raise the glucose level). Thanks,
    David Parker

    Posted by David Parker |
  7. Hi David,

    I’m glad to hear you have a tool to help you with your diabetes. If I’m understanding your question correctly, it appears that you’d like to know how much a 30 or 60 minute exercise session will lower your blood glucose, assuming that your pre-exercise glucose is under 250. Unfortunately, I can’t really give you an answer, as there are so many factors involved, including when you exercise, type of exercise, what (if any) diabetes medication is on board, and what you may have eaten before working out. I’d suggest, if you haven’t done so already, checking your glucose before and afer exercising for a while and keeping track of those values. You probably won’t always drop the same amount each time, but you should be able to get a general sense. You may also find that as you become more physically fit, your glucose levels may not drop as much.

    Posted by acampbell |
  8. I have type 2. I have high fasting blood glucose. I run 3x a week, and swim/cycle 2x a week, in the morning. On 2 of the those days, I run 30 to 60 min, usually short runs of high intensity alternating with short recovery breaks. My BG goes up, sometimes by as much as 60 points, and once by 90 points, and have exceeded 200 3x in the last 3 weeks. However, my post-breakfast BG numbers were under 110. The same happens when I swim or cycle for 20-30 min. When I run longer than 60 min., BG goes down even after eating carbs before the run. I test within 30 min. of exercising.

    Other than during the long run, I exercise before breakfast, although lately I either drink 1/2 cup choco soy milk or eat 1/4 energy bar before exercising, as I read that taking carbs may keep my FBG from rising further in the morning.

    Is the increase in the BG during short exercise periods normal? What causes the huge rise? Does rise in BG after exercising dangerous to my health? I’ve tried to research on this but have not found any satisfying answer.

    Posted by JD |
  9. Hi JD,

    It’s actually not uncommon for blood glucose levels to increase during exercise. This happens because stress hormones are released which signal the liver to release glucose to provide muscles with fuel. In some cases, the higher the intensity the exercise, the higher the glucose levels. Because you exercise before breakfast and at a time when your muscles don’t have much fuel, your glucose levels are increasing. You might try eating a snack of carbohydrate and some protein before exercising; slightly decreasing the intensity while increasing the duration of your workout; or even changing the time of day that you exercise. You don’t mention if you take diabetes medication. If you regularly wake up with high fasting blood glucose, this needs to be addressed with your health-care provider. Also, remember that your A1C level gives you the bigger picture of your overall diabetes control, so hopefully this is within your target range (usually less than 7% for most people with diabetes). Finally, you might try and meet with a diabetes educator who is an exercise physiologist or physical therapist who can help you fine tune your exercise program.

    Posted by acampbell |
  10. I have reviewed the same “propoganda” on numerous occassions from various websites, health professionals etc. Never do they address the fact that I will never be medication free, even after having tried the lifestyle changes, more exercise, different diet etc. for the past 2 years there have been no positive results. In fact my results have been more negative. My physical health has deteriorated,(more medications) and my mental health has plummetted to thoughts of suicide (more medications and therapy).

    So is it possible to say that if I start to do what I want, eat what I want and not exercise if I don’t want to and do things that make
    me happy that I may live a shorter more enjoyable life rather than a longer more miserable life.

    I do not want to live a life that makes me unhappy just to make the professionals happy. I would prefer a short happy life rather than a long miserable life.

    Posted by B |
  11. Hi B,
    I’m sorry to hear that you’re so unhappy and while I appreciate your comments and questions, I don’t think I’m the best person to address your issues. Is there someone on your healthcare team who you can talk to who can work with you to help improve your diabetes care and treatment? Having diabetes is difficult, but there are definitely ways to make it managable. By not treating your diabetes, you may experience short-term symptoms, such as thirst, fatigue, increased urination, etc. due to high glucose levels, which, over time, can lead to more serious complications. Please don’t give up on treatment options - with today’s medications and technologies, there are better ways to treat diabetes. And, either talk to your physician or therapist. If they aren’t helping you, it might be time to find a new healthcare team. You might also consider calling the American Diabetes Association for some guidance at 1-800-342-2383. Hang in there!

    Posted by acampbell |
  12. Hi B,

    Diabetes and depression often go hand in hand. I wanted to direct you to a few blog entries about diabetes and depression–how they can be related, and what you can do to help yourself manage both.

    Depression and Type 2 Diabetes—Symptoms or Disease?

    Depression and Type 2 Diabetes—Symptoms or Disease? (Part 2)

    Self-Managing Depression

    Depression—The Power Cure

    I hope that these are helpful for you.

    Posted by Tara Dairman, Web Editor |

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