The Psychological & Physical Benefits of
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 & old alike. The good news is it's not
hard to live an active lifestyle &, with a little imagination,
fitness can be fun!
What better time to start on your journey to fitness than now. 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,
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 & your health as
being overweight, having high cholesterol or smoking! Hmmm - are
you still sitting?
Improve diabetes control by increasing insulin sensitivity & it
increases the body cells' use of glucose (which may decrease one's
normal requirements of insulin &/or oral diabetes
The heart becomes stronger & more efficient in its ability to pump
blood & other nutrients throughout the body
Regulate blood pressure by making the heart pump more
Reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing low density
lipoproteins ("bad cholesterol") & increases the high density
lipoproteins ("good cholesterol")
Increase muscle tone & strength, which helps reduce the risk of
injury when performing everyday activities
Maintain healthy bones (& weight-bearing exercise may even help
increase bone density)
To achieve & maintain a healthy body weight
Improve self-esteem, body image & psychological well-being
Reduce stress, anxiety & depression, all in an effort to help you
adopt a healthy lifestyle
A wonderful thing about exercise is its ability to positively
effect both the body & 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 & in the best of health, you're 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 &
helps the body & mind handle stress **
Okay!! If exercise makes you feel better, which in turn improves
your diabetes control, how can you justify not becoming more
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 & 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 & lakes are great places for hiking, biking or kayaking.
Sandy beaches are ideal for walking, volleyball & water sports. If
team sports are more your style, join a recreational ball team ---
better yet, recruit some colleagues & 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 & supplements.
There are prescription & over-the-counter drugs which can
negatively affect 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 &/or insulin, if you have diabetes.
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 its
ability to increase insulin sensitivity & improve blood glucose
levels, individuals with diabetes do run the risk of hypoglycemia,
both during & 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 & 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 & test again. Repeat treatment if necessary. At this
point, it may be wise to take a few minutes, grab a small meal or
snack & relax for a while. There's nothing worse than the wiped out
feeling after a reaction!
15 gram CHO equivalents:
(Note: Chocolate & other sweets with a high fat content will not
work to increase blood sugar as quickly!)
Beware - it is equally as important for you to know that if your
blood glucose level is over 250 to 300 mg/dl, it may be best to 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 can cause
an increase in your blood glucose - not a decrease. To be sure, you
can test your urine for ketones. If ketones are present, hold off
on exercise until your blood sugar comes down.
It's always best to test your blood glucose level before you
exercise. This is the only way to judge whether or not you should
exercise or need 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
regard to altering your medication to accommodate for exercise.
Your health care provider may be able to offer some suggestions
but, in all honestly, 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
overall health status
recent blood glucose control & 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 & the length & 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 & an inner
desire to live a life of good health & 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