by Richard Peng MS, MBA, CDE, RCEP
Ahhh, it’s the end of another year, when many of us are thinking about a New Year’s resolution! An exercise program is one of the most popular goals – just visit any gym in January. While many people hold off until the new year to begin their resolution, the best time to start an exercise program is RIGHT NOW, as you are thinking about it. Start with small, simple steps. Putting it off until the new year will give you more weight to work on and delay the health benefits you’d get from exercising.
Here are 12 tips to help maximize your chance of being successful at sticking to your exercise program. If you are a diabetes care and education specialist, print this out and talk through it with clients who might be considering exercise goals.
- Set personal goals. There are many health benefits to regular exercise, including better management of blood glucose, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglyceride, better balance, more strength, more energy, less pain, feeling better or healthier and sleeping better. Notice that I did not include weight loss – see tip #9. Be sure you consult with your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
- Start closer to home. Exercise can be done in your home or around your neighborhood. If you have a busy schedule or are out of town guests, start with walking around your home, park or any safe area. It doesn’t have to take place in an exercise facility or studio. If you have never maintained an exercise program before, don’t think by committing yourself to a gym membership, it’s going to get you to stick to regular exercise.
- Start out with something you feel comfortable with. Exercise can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood or workplace. Starting out with doing more of the exercise or physical activity that you enjoy is a good step toward being successful. You can also mix the exercises throughout the week with cycling, swimming, dancing, hiking, playing tennis, etc.
- Establish a routine. Decide on how often you are going to exercise. When starting out, remember to give your body time to recuperate between each session and allow time for you to adapt to the new schedule. For example, if you decide to brisk walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes (or 10 minutes, 2 or 3 time each day), you may want to plan it for every other day: Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or Sunday.
- Evaluate your plan. How realistic is your exercise program? You may want to ask yourself:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this exercise program to you? (1 means it is not important and 10 means it is extremely important)
On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you will be able to stick to your exercise program? (1 means you are not confident at all and 10 means you are completely confident)
If either score is below 7, you may want to think about modifying your plan so that both scores are 7 or above.
- Put your plan into action. Schedule your exercise regimen into your weekly plan because it should be as important as everything else you do in your daily routine.
- Progress gradually. One of the most important parts in starting an exercise program is to get your body to adapt to the routine, exercising at the intensity that is not overwhelming for your body. Once your body and mind have adapted to the workout, increasing the intensity would not require much effort.
- Use a tracking device. If you have a device that tracks your steps or your exercise time such as an app on your smartphone, watch or wrist band, use it. Knowledge is power and knowing how much you did can help you stay motivated to maintain your program or challenge yourself, friends and family.
- Look for positive changes. When we talk about weight loss, we most likely refer to losing body fat and not muscle or other non-fat mass. Because muscle is denser than fat, the scale may not be the best way to gauge your progress. Some signs that indicate you are making healthy progress are clothes fitting looser, better night sleep, better mood and having more energy to do things.
- Get a workout partner. This can help with motivation and makes each person accountable.
- Reward yourself. Reward yourself once you have reached a short-term and/or long-term goal. For example, reward yourself with a health club membership once you have followed through with your exercise program for at least a month.
- Monitor your blood glucose level. Glucose is the major source of energy for your body during exercise. The harder you exercise, the faster your blood glucose drops. Here are some additional considerations:
Check your blood glucose before, after and possibly during exercise
- Plan to exercise 1-2 hours after your last meal.
- Do not exercise when you are hungry or your blood glucose is low.
Sulfonlyurea, Meglitinide and Insulin: if your medication includes any of these classes of medication or insulin, monitor your blood glucose when you exercise more closely. Dosage may need to be adjusted to prevent hypoglycemia.
Regardless of where you are in your health, NOW is the best time to start and your CURRENT exercise ability is the best level to work at. For more information on healthy goals for people with diabetes, check out the AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors.
AADE Perspectives on Diabetes Care
The American Association of Diabetes Educators Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
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HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.