In this last edition of our series on diabetes, we’ll focus on the need to move.
Exercise plays an important role in diabetes management. Preventing diabetes is about lifestyle change; this includes smart dietary habits and regular physical activity. Too many individuals do not view diabetes as the serious disease that it is. On average, it shortens life by almost 10 years and significantly reduces quality of life. Individuals with high-fat diets who consume far more calories per day than they need to avoid hunger and who don’t exercise at all do not seem to understand that their so-called “normal” lifestyle is slowly and literally killing them.
Muscular activity accounts for much of the body’s energy consumption. Muscles also store glucose in the form of glycogen, which can be rapidly converted to glucose when energy is required for sustained, powerful contractions. Muscle cells also contain globules of fat, which are used for energy during aerobic exercise. This is why it is important to continually use those muscles — to help burn off the accumulation of fat.
Here are some recommendations for lifestyle change that results in more daily physical activity:
- Scheduling. Put aside a period of time every day to be used for walking and other forms of exercise. After meals, first thing in the morning, or during a mealtime (have a light lunch after your exercise session) are options. Try to develop routines.
- Increasing daily activity as a lifestyle. Samples of increasing activity as part of one’s daily life include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator and walking instead of driving whenever possible, parking further away from your destination, not to mention lifting weights, doing calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups) or taking a walk as a break from remaining sedentary every few hours.
- Coaching. Exercising properly is a science. Visit a fitness facility and obtain professional fitness coaching. Get tested in various measures of fitness, learn how to lift weights properly and receive an exercise “prescription.” We are motivated by numbers, so fitness tests give us the numbers for improving performance over time. Get a second test in 6 months to see if your fitness has improved.
- Live consistently with your values. Values are core beliefs about what you feel passionate about. What moves you? Remember what’s important in your life and try to maintain a lifestyle consistent with your values. Health, family, faith, integrity and job performance are frequent values in our culture. Are you living a life consistent with your values? If not, the inconsistencies between your values and your unhealthy habits have pretty serious consequences. Do you find the disconnection between your values and bad habits acceptable? If not, make the effort to replace those unhealthy habits with positive, more desirable routines. There are people who love you and want to see you healthy and living a long, productive and happy life.
As primary care providers, we are often the first professionals to pick up potential chronic diseases, such as diabetes. We can make a huge difference in the lives of our patients by making some of these lifestyle recommendations that get them headed in the right direction toward a healthy and happy lifestyle.
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