Mind & Body Fitness: The Psychological & Physical Benefits of Exercise
Why exercise - what's in it for me?
The results are in!! Exercise is good medicine!
Regular physical activity should be a part of almost everyone's daily routine - both young and old alike. The good news is: it's not hard to live an active lifestyle and with a little imagination, fitness can be fun!
What better time to start on your journey to fitness than now. With the cool months of fall just around the corner, the great outdoors can become your gym of unlimited adventure. Think about it. When was the last time you actually participated in a physically challenging situation? If it's been longer than a week ago, it's time for a change!
The benefits of being fit clearly outweigh the risks of being sedentary. In fact, the American Heart Association considers inactivity a risk for heart disease! That's right - living a sedentary lifestyle is just as bad for your heart and your health as being overweight, having high cholesterol or smoking! Hmmm - are you still sitting?
Improve diabetes control by increasing insulin sensitivity and cell utilization of circulating blood glucose (which may decrease one's normal requirements of insulin and/or oral hypoglycemic agents)
The heart become stronger and more efficient in its ability to pump blood and nutrients throughout the body
Regulate blood pressure by making the heart pump more efficiently
Reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing low density lipoproteins ("bad cholesterol") and increasing high density lipoproteins ("good cholesterol")
Increase muscle tone and strength, which helps reduce the risk of injury when performing everyday activities
Maintain healthy bones (and may even help increase bone density)
To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
Improve self esteem, body image and psychological well-being
Reduce stress, anxiety and depression, all in an effort to help you adopt a healthy lifestyle
A wonderful thing about exercise is it's ability to positively effect both the body and the mind. Think about it. When your body aches or your mind is stressed, your ability to function is always affected to some extent. On the other hand, when you are in good physical condition and in the best of health, you are able to handle whatever the world puts your way.
The effect one's mood plays on diabetes control has recently received a fair amount of attention. People who are depressed, anxious or highly stressed appear to have the most difficult time controlling their blood glucose levels. This makes sense, since stress does cause a surge in adrenaline-like hormones, which in turn increase the liver's output of glucose.
**Exercise helps the body work much better and helps the body and mind handle stress **
Okay!! If exercise makes you feel better, which in turn improves your diabetes control, how can you justify not becoming more fit?!
Relax - you don't have to join a health club, pump heavy metal or hire a personal trainer to reap the benefits of physical activity. You merely need to DO SOMETHING!
Think about activities you enjoy and set aside time to do them. The list of activities is only as limited as you allow it to be.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, look at your surroundings. Mountains and lakes are great places for hiking, biking or kayaking. Sandy beaches are ideal for walking, volleyball and water sports. If team sports are more your style, join a recreational ball team --- better yet, recruit some colleagues and start your own. The key to your success is making it fun. Remember - the point is to reduce stress - not create it!
** Do something you enjoy! **
Before you begin, ask your health care provider if your physical condition limits your choice of activities in any way. Also ask about your medications and supplements.
There are prescription and over-the-counter drugs which can negatively effect your heart's response to exercise.
This is important for you to know. It is just as important to understand the mechanisms behind, as well as the timing of, your diabetes medications and/or insulin. Knowing this will provide a better foundation for understanding your body's unique response to physical activity.
Regular physical activity is not without its risks. Because of it's ability to increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose levels, individuals with diabetes do run the risk of hypoglycemia, both during and after an exercise session. This is especially true for individuals just becoming more active, who are unsure of how their body will respond to exercise.
If a reaction does occur, stop what you're doing and test your blood glucose. Follow by treating the reaction with the equivalent of 15 grams of carbohydrates. (See box below for 15gm suggestions) Wait 15 minutes and test again. Repeat treatment if necessary. At this point, it may be wise to take a few minutes, grab a small meal or snack and relax for awhile. There's nothing worse than the wiped out feeling after a reaction!
15 gram CHO equivalents 4 ounces of fruit juice or apple sauce 4 to 6 ounces of regular soda (NOT sugar free soda!!!) 3 to 6 glucose tablets (Check label for actual CHO content) 3 to 4 pieces of hard sugar sweetened candy small handful of jelly beans, gummy candies or fruit jellies (again - NOT sugar free!!!) 1 cup of skim milk (2% & whole milk will not work as quickly because of the higher fat content) 2 Tbls of honey, syrup or table sugar (Note: Chocolate & other candies with a higher fat content will not work as quickly!)
Beware - it is equally as important for you to know that if your blood glucose level is over 250mg/dl, you should NOT participate in any physical activity. A blood glucose this high signifies there is not enough insulin in your system to push the glucose into the cells for energy. Exercise at this level will cause an increase in your blood glucose - not a decrease.
The solution: Test your blood glucose level before you exercise and then periodically throughout the sessions. This is the only way to judge whether or not you should exercise, alter your medications or take a snack.
It is also advisable to test every 30 to 60 minutes after exercise for at least four hours. Exercise has a potential carry-over effect, which causes some individuals to use glucose more efficiently even hours after they've finished.
** Know your blood glucose levels **
Unfortunately, there are no straightforward guidelines to follow in regards to altering your medication to accommodate for exercise. Your health care provider may be able to offer some suggestions but in actuality, there are too many other factors involved to be sure.
The way a person's body responds to exercise is unique to that person. Many factors are involved, which include the individual's:
fitness level body composition age gender overall health status recent blood glucose control and so on.
A body's response during each session will also vary, depending on the blood glucose level before the session, the type of exercise(s) being performed and the length and intensity of the workout.
So you see, it's really not difficult to begin your personal journey to fitness. All you need is a little motivation and an inner desire to live a life of good health and you'll be on your way!
PS: The first three weeks will be the most difficult, when it comes to developing exercise as a habit, but hang in there. Once you get past this initial hump, your routine will be second nature! Good luck!