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Step 2: Get Up and Get Moving (Part 4)

Now that your patients are over their fear of activity, Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM helps you Choose Planned Activities-Cardio Workouts for your patients, and how you can get your patients to do them. Click here to read this and all of Dr. Colberg’s features.

Step 2: Get Up and Get Moving (Part 4)
Choosing Planned Activities—Cardio Workouts

SheriBy Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM

Now that you’re moving your body more, you might want to consider adding in some other types of activities to maximize your fitness and diabetes control. Before you do so, though, it’s important to consider how various structured activities can benefit your health and glucose levels. For instance, stretching and other flexibility activities are important in limiting flexibility losses as you age, but aren’t as effective in using up a lot of glucose. On the other hand, prolonged cardiovascular (aerobic) workouts generally lower blood glucose levels. To help you decide what is best for you, the benefits and potential drawbacks of various types of activities are discussed in more detail in the following section.

Cardio workouts get your heart going
Aerobic, or “cardio,” exercise gets your heart working harder. As your blood is pumped faster, it must be oxygenated in less time as it passes by your lungs, which in turn quickens your breathing. Consequently, aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and boosts the levels of your healthy cholesterol. Lower-impact aerobic exercises include mild walking, swimming, cycling, tai chi, and the like. Higher-impact aerobic exercise includes running, tennis, and aerobic dance classes.

Moderate walking is likely the best medicine for both the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and for your overall health, and it has the added bonus of being more sustainable over a lifetime than many other activities. The surgeon general recently recommended moderate amounts of daily, aerobic physical activity for people of all ages including 30 minutes of moderate activities (like brisk walking) or shorter sessions–15 to 20 minutes–of more intense exercise, including jogging or playing basketball. Of course, engaging in even more total physical activity may offer you additional benefits–but only up to a point. The incidence of overuse injuries, such as inflamed tendons (tendonitis) and stress fractures in bones, soars when you do more than 60 to 90 minutes of hard exercise daily.

Ideally, structured aerobic exercise programs should involve activities that allow you to move your whole body over the greatest distance possible to maximize your energy use. However, although walking and jogging fall into this category of activity, most overweight adults will find jogging and running either too difficult or simply unenjoyable. Try tricking yourself into walking by incorporating it into other activities–such as walking farther than you need to when you go shopping. Walking can be the gateway to more vigorous exercise, which can further increase your overall health benefits. Your self-confidence may improve once you start a walking program, which may lead you to start including additional physical activities into your life. You might even want to try out ballroom dancing, cycling, low-impact aerobics classes, or other forms of aerobic exercise. Remember to take advantage of any strong physical attributes that you have–such as stronger legs from carrying around your extra body weight.

In two weeks, I will share more tips and ideas from my latest book, The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight (2006). Information about all of my books, my many articles, my research, and more is available on my web site: www.SheriColberg.com.

Tip for the day: To get the maximum benefits from stretching to minimize the loss of flexibility caused by aging and accelerated by diabetes, include stretching exercises into your new, healthier lifestyle a minimum of two or three days per week. This will also help you maximize your strength gains from any concurrent resistance exercises you may be doing.

Learn more about the Steps to Health Program at STEPS TO HEALTH

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