Physical fitness is an important component of everyone's lives. Often when a person has diabetes, any type, I find that the medical team pitches the idea of exercise as a part of the medical regime. This makes sense, because we know of the benefits on glucose control, insulin resistance, and weight. However, when exercise feels like your “medicine” or just another task that is a part of your regimen, it can quickly go from fun to challenging.
The key to maintaining a regular exercise routine for me, has been to find the fun in movement again. Most of us can remember as kids running in the park, swimming in the summers, and basically bouncing up and down anywhere we were. That was exercise, even if we didn’t realize it. As an adult, all of a sudden exercise is no longer the fun activities, but becomes something akin to scheduling in a meeting. Don’t get me wrong, there are those of us that LOVE the gym, but I am not one of those people.
Take an assessment of what you enjoy. For me, I love music, the beach, and being outside. I’ve started to go dancing one night a week to a Cuban salsa club that offers free lessons for an hour followed by social dancing for as long as I can stay awake. This never “counted” for me as exercise until I realized how many calories I am shedding just moving to the beat of the music. Do things that feel good. For me, going to an intense fitness class feels daunting and overwhelming. I love to be outdoors, so taking my dog for a walk in the evenings after dinner feels good for both my to-do list and me. Don’t try scheduling exercise when it interferes with other important aspects of your life. For me, exercise has to be something that is not time-consuming or bleeds into my family time. I’ve started riding my bike to work because it takes about the same time as driving including parking and stoplights. This is a great way for me to get an automatic workout in, without adding any time to my already packed day.
You will each have your own likes and dislikes, so this is not a “one-size-fits-all”, but in general, if you follow to the beat of your own exercise drum, it will be more likely to stick, feel rewarding, and have long term consequences in your life.
Dr. Diana Naranjo is a Clinical Psychologist who works at the Madison Clinic for Pediatric Diabetes at the University of California, San Francisco.