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Being active has long been championed as a route to better blood sugar (glucose) control. But it can be easier said than done for people living with diabetes or prediabetes (a condition where blood sugars are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes).

Some people find exercising incredibly challenging, especially if they don’t believe they’ll be able to stick to a fitness routine

says Sean Locke, a post-doctoral fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C. Locke is also a counsellor with UBC’s “Small Steps for Big Changes,” a one-on-one, three-week fitness and counselling program that helps people make changes to their diets and exercise routines. Under the supervision of associate professor Mary Jung, and with funding from Diabetes Canada, his research focuses on strategies to help people become physically active and lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If you are finding it tough to get going, here are Locke’s top five strategies:

Believe in yourself

Self-confidence is one of the most important factors in your exercise success. Fortunately, you can develop this positive feeling; each one of your successes, no matter how small, will help. “If your confidence in starting an exercise program is low, begin with a simple 10-minute walk a few times a week, and add five minutes per week,” Locke says.

Be clear about your “why?”

What are the benefits of being active for you: more energy, losing weight, feeling fewer muscle aches and pains? Thinking about what you will get from exercise may help inspire you to get started with a routine and to keep going. “There’s very strong evidence to suggest that internal motivation is the strongest motivator to help [change] behaviour,” says Locke.

External motivation—such as a suggestion from your doctor—might be well-meaning but may not inspire you to create a lifetime exercise habit.

Change negative self-talk

Beware of biased thoughts about exercise and negative self-talk, says Locke. For example, he says, “Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that you don’t have time for exercise because you feel busy. Instead of talking yourself out of exercise, ask yourself, ‘Am I really too busy to walk for even just a few minutes?’ It’s important to distinguish between when we’re actually too busy versus when we feel busy but could be active.”

Find a buddy

Even if you are the most dedicated exerciser, some days you just may not be able to stick to your schedule. On days when you may not “feel like it,” it helps to have someone supportive on your side. A workout buddy, a personal trainer, or a fitness counsellor can provide motivational support when you need it.

Get real

Do not set exercise targets and goals that are too hard for you to live up to. “Understand that illness and unexpected interruptions are going to come up,” says Locke. “If you miss a workout, don’t feel guilty or let it throw you off track. Instead, think back to why exercising is important to you, let your response be more self-compassionate, and realize that tomorrow is another day.”

Did you know?

Regular physical activity can be something you already do: for example, gardening or walking. Just being more regular with your activity will benefit your diabetes. If you need help getting started, visit Planning for Regular Physical Activity.

If you have prediabetes or are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, you may be eligible for the new personalized lifestyle management program, Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program, at no cost to you.

(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2019)

Author: Barb Gormley

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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