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It wasn’t long ago that hauling up the garage door and standing to change the TV channel were daily physical tasks we did without thinking. But technology has eliminated a range of activities that helped keep our body weight, strength, and blood glucose (sugar) levels in check.

Today, we need to consciously include physical activity in our lives to maintain good health. And for most people, this requires planning. Says Dr. Chris Shields, a professor of kinesiology at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.,

Having a plan to introduce or increase your activity level can be important to long-term success. However, what’s most important is to incorporate more movement into your day whether or not you have a plan, especially if you find physical activity intimidating or particularly challenging.

You can use these four questions, along with the expertise of your diabetes healthcare team, to create your own physical activity action plan.

What’s your current physical activity level?

If you are inactive or sit a lot, start slowly and at a lower intensity, says Dr. Shields, who, together with fellow professor Jonathon Fowles, developed an exercise tool kit (click on “Management”) on behalf of the Canadian Diabetes Association (now known as Diabetes Canada) that diabetes healthcare professionals can offer to their patients. “Starting off too fast or with activities that are too challenging can lead to failure and can be demoralizing for any new exerciser—with or without diabetes. For the vast majority of people with diabetes, walking is a good, safe place to start.”

What stops you from being active? What can you do about that?

“Determine potential barriers before you encounter them because brainstorming solutions under stress can be a challenge,” says Jennifer Buccino, people affected by diabetes (PAD) knowledge & connection executive director at Diabetes Canada. With a bit of planning, perhaps you can find other solutions. For example, if you dislike the rain, hot sun, or cold weather, choose mall walking or indoor resistance band exercises instead of your regular outdoor walk. If sore joints occasionally keep you from attending your tai chi class, how about trying a water fitness class instead?

What motivates you to keep going?

“Goals are important because they provide a target to shoot for,” says Dr. Shields. “It can be helpful to have long-term goals, such as getting your A1C [measure of blood glucose levels over the past three to four months] below 7.0, but they can sometimes be overwhelming. Smaller goals, such as walking 15 minutes every day, remind you of what you are trying to accomplish.” A diabetes or fitness professional can help you determine realistic and specific steps, including the answers to what, when, where, and how often.

However, Dr. Shields says that for some people, especially those just starting to get physically active, open goals may be more beneficial, both in terms of being more realistic and an equally effective way to start. “Open goals could include seeing how far you can walk, how many steps you can take, or how many times you can get out and be active that week without tying success to a specific outcome,” he says, adding, that according to some recent research, open goals can be more impactful than traditional SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals.

Is it time to develop a new goal?

Once you reach any goal—whether short or long term—take time to celebrate, then revisit your current situation. Decide whether you want to set a new goal or continue to maintain what you have already achieved.

Three keys to success

“While benefits such as weight loss and increased muscle strength can take several weeks to appear, the psychological benefits of physical activity can be immediate. Improvements in mood, energy, and regulation of A1C levels build after each session,” says Acadia University kinesiology professor Dr. Chris Shields. He offers these suggestions to help you make physical activity a lifelong habit.

1. Choose activities you enjoy You are more likely to remain interested when you look forward to physical activity.

2. Include a social element It is often easier and more fun to be active with friends or family members who support and encourage you and help keep you accountable.

3. Aim for variety Participating in multiple activities reduces boredom and provides the motivation that can help you stick with it.

Two tips for thinking positively

For most people, lack of time is the greatest challenge to an active lifestyle, says Acadia University kinesiology professor Dr. Chris Shields. Keep these suggestions in mind as you plan to be more active.

1. Concentrate on what you want to do For example, keep your focus on decreasing stress, feeling more energetic, sleeping better, or lowering your blood glucose (sugar) readings, rather than on what you are trying to avoid, such as sitting on the couch for long periods or letting your blood sugar levels get too high.

2. Don’t be hard on yourself for missing a day occasionally Focus on what you did well when you were regularly active and get back to it as soon as possible.

Did you know?

This September, Diabetes Canada is encouraging Canadians to take the #LaceUpYourWay challenge to raise funds and awareness for Diabetes Canada. Anyone at any fitness level can participate. Join a distance challenge or start a daily streak in the Lace Up app. Every distance and dollar help fund education, support services, advocacy, and diabetes research that can lead to the next big medical breakthrough. Challenge yourself or rally a team to #LaceUpYourWay and raise funds to help bring us one step closer to a cure. Visit Lace Up to End Diabetes for details.

This updated article originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Spring 2015.

Author: Barb Gormley

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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