How to Get Motivated to be Physically Active With Diabetes
A Healthier You: How to Get Motivated for the long run to be Physically Active
By, Kathryn Gentile, B.S. Exercise Physiology
I’m writing this with the hope that it will help your desire and motivation to increase your physical activity levels. We all have a lot going on in our lives whether it be work, school, family matters, or personal. It’s incredibly common to hear people say that they were doing great with their workout and then just lost interest, got too busy, or weren’t seeing results so they saw no point.
My second semester freshman year of college I switched my major to exercise physiology. My University hired a new professor to be head of the department and I really liked the way he taught. Also, I looked up to Gary Scheiner (the owner and clinical director of Integrated Diabetes Services) and he was an Exercise Physiologist.
Excited about what I was learning in my classes, I began going to the gym regularly. I was on my university cheerleading team and from the workouts I began to improve my skills. I felt good physically and mentally. I kept motivated by making new friends at the gym who I started to go with and paying attention to how happy I felt after a workout. That summer, my brother and I took on a job that kept us physically active. We began yoga together too. In July, he passed away tragically at work. All sophomore year I had no motivation whatsoever. My blood sugars were constantly elevated, I developed high blood pressure, and I was always tired.
This was dragging along with me up until the end of junior year. I began to remember that I had goals and I always felt a lot better after a workout. Plus, my brother would want me to be healthy, as did all my loved ones. When I came home for the summer I took up CrossFit with a good friend. This was perfect for me because I was surrounded by a lot of very motivated and encouraging people and it was an investment – if I didn’t go I’d be losing money. Additionally, there were people that were just starting an exercise program for the first time needing a lot of guidance to people that were very advanced. It was the right setting for me and where I was at the time.
I actually started to enjoy exercise. Previously, I didn’t believe that was possible. Now, it has become a part of my daily routine and is typically my favorite part of the day. While exercising, I’m able to put my focus into what I’m doing there and forget about all the outside stressors.
As mentioned, I wrote this to help you stay motivated on a program that increases your physical activity for the long haul. I can guarantee there’s something out there for you or a reason to keep moving~
Diabetes and excercise: What to focus on
First, you should remind yourself that even if you aren’t seeing progress on the scale you are bettering your health and decreasing your risk for complications significantly.
Additionally, the most unhealthy fat, visceral, is the first to go. This is the fat stored in the abdominal cavity that surrounds important internal organs. For many, it helps to make exercise more about health pros rather than just vanity reasons.
Track your Progress: Weighing yourself everyday and seeing no change or even an increase can really kill your motivation. If you want to track progress, a better way would be to do waist to hip measurements or skinfold testing. This way, you’ll see you’re losing unwanted fat even if the scale doesn’t show it. Additionally, you can take “progress photos”. Remember, change can’t happen overnight and healthy change is often slow and steady.
Blood sugar fluctuations: If you go low during your workout-try to figure out how to combat it. The IDS (Integrated Diabetes Services) team is trained to help you figure out how to do this. Adjustments are often necessary and it will be a learning curve but remind yourself that it’s worth it. Common suggestions are basal decreases prior, small snacks prior, exercising within 2 hours after a meal, or sports drinks during. Additionally, if you still go low you don’t have to consume all the calories just burned. Rather, treat your low with something like glucose tabs with only 5 calories each that bring you up quickly. Resistance training can have the opposite effect of increasing blood sugars during the workout. Still, insulin sensitivity is improved for approximately 24 hours after. A great resource is Christel, author of “Fit With Diabetes”, also known as Diabetes Strong.
Mental Improvements: Physical Activity is proven to help you feel better mentally. When you exercise, chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin are released. This will help improve anxiety symptoms, energy, depressive symptoms, and reduce stress.*Something to keep in mind: Resistance training burns calories and increases muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories burned. You should also include cardio. Cardio is what improves cardiovascular health. I would recommend a combination of both anaerobic (Resistance/shorter duration) and aerobic (Cardio, longer duration) training.
Here are some additional tips to help you remain physically active for the long run:
Try different types of exercise. There’s endless ways to increase your daily activity levels.
Sign up for a group fitness class at your gym, a yoga studio, orange theory, a dance studio, a CrossFit gym, anything of interest.
Get involved in an athletic league like basketball or soccer.
Find a time of day that would typically work with your schedule and make that your dedicated exercise time.
Try to find a workout partner.
Get a trainer, one who has training in special populations would be extra beneficial. Look for an ACSM certified trainer or try to get a recommendation to someone who understands diabetes.
Write sticky notes of encouragement and put them where you’ll see them.
Take screenshots to remind yourself of your post workout improved insulin sensitivity.
Download exercise apps.
Join a fitness page on social media.
Workout in the comfort of your home with ondemand, youtube, or workouts found online.
Come up with goals and challenges for yourself.
Follow “fitness inspirations” on social media.
Plan workouts ahead of time.
Have a workout “split” ex. Monday-legs, Tuesday-Shoulders, Wednesday-Back and Bis, Thursday-Rest, Friday-Cardio, Saturday-Chest and Tris, Sunday-Rest.
Listen to music, watch TV, or a podcast during to distract yourself.
Smart devices now encourage you to get moving-consider a smart watch to help you track your activity. Go in the morning, that way if something comes up later on it won’t cause you to miss the gym. Plus, you’re less likely to go low during morning workouts.
It can be hard to keep up motivation. Think of going to the gym like taking your daily medications. It will help you feel better both physically and mentally.
The time and effort you put in is going to help you avoid complications. No workout is a bad workout. And increasing physical activity is incredibly beneficial. Make 2020 the year you become proud of yourself for working to improve your health!
If you would like someone to help hold you accountable or give some advice on getting started, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to be an encouraging friend.
Kathryn received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from Ave Maria University in Florida and a Master's degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She is Certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as well as the International Sports Science Association.