You’ve heard it before. “You need to exercise more.” “You need to start an exercise program.” In today’s busy world, it can feel overwhelming with thoughts of “where do I begin?” or “where am I supposed to get the time to exercise?” or “what can I do easily to exercise?”
First, let’s begin with a reminder of the current exercise recommendations from the Diabetes Standards of Care 2017. Most adults with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes should participate in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every week. Try to avoid going 2 days in a row without exercising. This is commonly phrased as 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. Also, adults with diabetes should include resistance training 2-3 days a week. And all adults (with a focus on people with Type 2 diabetes) should try to reduce sedentary or sitting time and try to get up every 30 minutes to improve blood sugar control.
Just reading the recommendations can make your head spin. It can be confusing to know where and how to begin. Be reassured that you are not alone!
Here are five common barriers to exercise and tips for overcoming them!
- I can’t afford a gym membership or to buy exercise equipment for my home!
Although it is currently trendy to join a gym, attend classes, or have a personal trainer, there are plenty of free exercise options. Remember that walking counts! You can walk in your neighborhood, around a local high school track, or find your favorite outdoor spot such as a lake or walking trail. If it’s raining or snowing or you can’t make it outside, try walking indoors. For example, malls open before the stores do and you can walk there. Also, look into local resources. You can often find free walking groups, yoga classes, etc.
- I find exercise boring!
What sounds fun to you? Besides walking and running or jogging, other options include swimming, biking, playing sports. Remember none of these have to be formal. Are you watching your grandkids this weekend? See if they want to go for a bike ride with you; it’s okay to go slow. Are your kids getting antsy being inside during the Winter? With Spring almost here and warm weather coming early, grab a soccer ball and play outside with your child(ren.) Also, remember that you don’t have to exercise alone! Ask your partner, friend, neighbor, co-worker to join you. Sometimes you forget you’re even exercising when there’s someone there to talk with!
- I know I should exercise, but I’m just not motivated!
Be sure to set a realistic goal. If it’s been awhile since you last exercised, it may not be realistic to say that you are going to walk 60 minutes 5 days a week starting next week. Start with a more simple plan and work up to your ultimate goal. Think about what you’d like to do and where you can fit it into your routine. A more realistic example to getting started with exercise is setting a goal of walking 3 days a week for 15-20 minutes during lunch with your co-worker.
Again, remember you don’t have to do this alone. Look for support from a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker. In addition, consider an incentive. Most of us tend to put our families first, but wouldn’t it be nice to finally reward yourself?! Set a goal, and if you meet it, reward yourself! For example, your goal is to walk around the lake every morning before work for 30 minutes, 5 days a week for the next 4 weeks. If you meet this goal (without missing one day), then at the end of the 4 weeks you can reward yourself with something you enjoy! Try to skip the food rewards and think of something else that makes you happy such as getting a pedicure/manicure or massage, going to the movies, buying a new book, playing golf, etc.
- I’m out of the house all day at work and when I get home, I’m just so tired and I don’t want to exercise!
When do you feel the most energetic? Although some people exercise at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re an early riser, try exercising early in your day. And again, remember, start slowly and choose a realistic goal. If that doesn’t work for you, how about the middle of the day? Can you exercise during your lunch break? Sometimes you just need to have trial and error; try one type of exercise at a certain time of day. If that doesn’t work, try something else. Keep trying until you find the right type of exercise as well as the time of day that works best for you and your schedule!
- How am I supposed to do resistance training? I can’t lift weights anymore!
Again, going to the gym and seeing a personal trainer or joining classes/groups are very popular these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to join in. There are other options. And all you need is common household items such as a chair and a can of soup. You can try basic lower and upper body exercises. The National Institutes for Health has great resources for older adults!
Everybody is different, so be sure to follow-up with your healthcare provider to see what type of exercise is best for you.
Remember, start slowly and start with a realistic goal. As you become more comfortable, you can adjust your goal and increase the amount of exercise you do! Good luck!
By: Jennifer Leske, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Fit4D Certified Diabetes Educator