Fitting in Exercise No Matter What
Pat Kawlewski, registered nurse and certified diabetes educator, is a great promoter of exercise for people with diabetes. "It makes your body more sensitive to insulin, it lowers your blood pressure, it improves circulation and heart function and relieves tension. It hits everything the body needs," she says.
Do you think exercise isn't for you? Don't tell Kawlewski. She has something to say to just about every reason a person gives for not exercising:
I'm too old…
"There's always something that you can incorporate into your day," says Kawlewski. "I say to people who think they're too old, 'Do you like to walk?' And they say 'Yes, but I don't like to walk in bad weather.' So I suggest that they walk at a mall.
"If they feel real out of shape or don't want to walk, I suggest armchair exercises. Most people watch the news. I tell them, 'Sit in a chair, and during the half hour that the news is on, raise your arms up and down, move your legs if you can. After you've tried that for a few days, put a can of soup in each hand to add some weight.' I tell them to do this three or four times a week, and they're always surprised at how much better they feel."
I have arthritis…
"People with arthritis can really benefit from swimming. If they can find a pool at a YMCA, local school or community center, I recommend they try swimming, but just walking in water can relieve joint stress. You don't actually have to swim. One of my patients is an 80-something gentleman who started swimming and he's had great results."
I'm too busy with my kids…
"Exercise time is some of the best time you can spend with your kids," says Kawlewski. "Turn off the television and the computer and go for a walk. I remember once my daughter was having a problem in school. We went for a walk, and before we had rounded the last bend, she had a smile back on her face because we had talked through the problem."
I just don't feel good…
"Exercise increases your energy level. If you don't feel good, start out slowly. Do what you can. You're only human. Just do 10 minutes of activity to start."
I can't find the time…
For people who don't feel they can set aside the time to exercise, building it into their routine can help. "One of my patients parks his car a half mile from work. That gives him a mile of built-in walking every day. Another gets off the bus a few stops early. One woman does her laundry and then works out on her exercise bike until it's time to put the fabric softener in. She lost quite a bit of weight just by making that change."
Always be safe
"I always stress how important it is for people to be safe. Check your feet before and after you exercise. Wear shoes that fit right. Only increase your level as you're able to. Stop if you become short of breath or dizzy. Wear a Medical Alert tag. Carry glucose tabs or snacks with you in case your blood sugar becomes low. Check with your doctor to make sure exercise is safe for you."
Does Pat, who has Type 1 diabetes, notice a difference herself if she misses her regular exercise? "Oh yes. The blood sugars are definitely not as good. I tell you, exercise hits everything the body needs. If I could bottle it in one pill, I could retire and my family wouldn't ever have to work again."