Diabetes Forecast

Exercise Tips for Psyching Up, Keeping Fresh

By Lindsey Wahowiak , , ,

Maybe you're getting off the couch for the first time (or even just thinking about it). Perhaps you're trying to find the drive to go one last lap around the track. With exercise, motivation is everything.

Of course, timing also is everything. Many people who know they should exercise cite time as an excuse for never getting around to it. They just don't have enough time, or they use it to care for others. But taking the time to exercise can help balance the rest of your life, according to Keith Kaufman, PhD, a sports psychologist in Washington, D.C. "One of the best ways you can take care of your family is to take care of yourself," he says. "We don't often make that connection on our own."

And even when you acknowledge that it's important to take care of yourself, you have just a limited amount of willpower to use each day, Kaufman says. Once you tap it all, it's gone. "Exercise, ideally, wouldn't cost you a lot of willpower," he says. "It's supposed to be rejuvenating." Yet, everyone needs a little help with their get-up-and-go from time to time, so here are some suggestions. It's time to crank up your headphones and say, "Yes, I can do this!"

Getting in the Game

If you haven't exercised in ages—or ever—beginning a workout regimen can seem intimidating, maybe even impossible. Here's how to ease yourself into a manageable exercise routine.

Believe it. It sounds simple, but telling yourself "I can achieve x" really does help you get moving, says Kaufman. Don't beat yourself up about what you should be doing (I should exercise for 30 minutes every day)—just focus on what feels good for you (I'm going to walk my dog after dinner). "Far too many people try to 'should' all over themselves and try to fit into something they're not," Kaufman says.

Start small. If you're just beginning an exercise regimen, there's no need to launch into a full hour of cardio. Little bits of movement throughout your day can have a big impact. In fact, says Sheri Colberg, PhD, FACSM, author of The Diabetic Athlete, one study showed that if people got up from their desks for just a few minutes each hour, they would burn an extra 50 to 120 calories a day. So if a "workout" seems daunting, try walking down the block, suggests James A. Talbert, EdD, former high school athletic coach and a Diabetes Forecast Reader Panel member. "Walking is a lifelong activity that takes no talent, just opening up the door and stepping outside," Talbert says. The same idea applies to sports: Instead of playing a full basketball game, Kaufman says to try dribbling a basketball for a few minutes and work up to longer periods of exercise.

Make it fun. Exercise can be a pleasurable part of your day. When working with clients, Kaufman has them think back to childhood and remember what games they enjoyed. Many communities have kickball, dodgeball, and flag football leagues for adults of all athletic abilities. Reader Panel member Sarah Howard says she tries to view her daily walks not as exercise but as a welcome break. "It's a great time to think and to talk with the neighbors and to get outdoors," she says. "And once I'm there, then I might go up the hills a little faster if I feel up for it, or walk for a full hour. But if I don't, then I just walk more moderately."

Avoid excuses. Kaufman and Colberg both say the biggest obstacle between people and exercise is time: No one seems to have enough. But even five minutes of walking each day is better than nothing. If you can get in five minutes every hour during the workday, even better, says Colberg. "[People] don't even have to break a sweat, but by the end of the day they've still exceeded the recommended amount of activity," she says, which is about 30 minutes daily. There are many workout videos available for people who need to exercise while sitting—check your local library.

Keep it balanced. Everyone can benefit from balance training, but seniors with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of falling than the average person, says Colberg. Balance training—standing on one leg, bending, squatting—can improve strength and stability, she says, and remove some barriers to exercise.

Safety Note: Check with your health care provider before making big changes in your exercise plan, which could require adjustments in your meds, foods, or other treatment.

Hitting the Wall

If you've been exercising for a while now, you know your motivation can ebb and flow. Here's how to keep on the right track.

Recognize the signs of burnout. If you push exercising too hard, you risk injuring yourself or quitting your program altogether. "The worst thing I see is people recognize they're getting bored but try to force themselves to continue," Kaufman says. If that's you, it could be time to take a short break and reevaluate what you want from your workout.

Mix it up. If you already have a workout regimen, but your attention is starting to wander, it might be time to change your game plan. So if you're a walker, you can take a different route, walk at a different time of day, or find a new companion, Colberg suggests. Or, you can diversify your activities by adding yoga, Pilates, or weight training, says Kaufman. Reader Panel member Michel D. Harris, RD, LDN, CDE, used to run but felt it was getting monotonous. She joined a Jazzercise class instead. "Each class is one hour, and it goes by fast because you have fun and get to listen to the most current music," Harris says. "We even sing if we want to, and no one cares if you sound bad."

Set new goals. If you've been walking for years and have considered running, maybe it's time to try a Couch to 5K program. If you can run 3 miles, it could be fun to sign up for a 10K race. If you never miss a Zumba class, you might think about becoming an instructor. Pursuing something new and different is what keeps you on your game, Kaufman says. "It's not a static or linear process," he says.



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