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Finding the Motivation to Start or Keep Exercising

Dec 4, 2007

According to Dr. Sheri Colberg, “The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over again, but expecting different results every time.” But when it comes to physical activity or exercise this statement is not true. Learn how to help your patients become insane about physical activity.

SheriFinding the Motivation to Start or Keep Exercising


By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM

            The definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over again, but expecting different results every time. You don’t have to dramatically change everything about your lifestyle all at once, but effectively preventing and controlling your prediabetes or type 2 diabetes is going to involve doing something differently . . . permanently. The healthy nutritional changes that you implement for yourself should never be interpreted as “going on a diet,” which implies that the “diet” will end at some point. If you avoid calling your meal plan a “diet,” you will have a much more positive attitude toward the changes you make.

            Along the same lines, if “exercise” is a bad word around your house, call it “physical activity” or “moving more” or something else with a less negative connotation. Get started by becoming more active throughout the day, and try to sit less and move around or stand more. I guarantee that you won’t even realize that what you’re doing counts as exercise. Start today, and take it one day at a time.

Keep reminding yourself that exercise can save your life
Regular exercise can lessen the potential impact of most of your cardiovascular risk factors, including elevated cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertension. High blood pressure is associated with higher levels of insulin, and regular physical activity can result in lower blood pressure and reduced circulating levels of insulin. If you do nothing but regular walking, it can lengthen your life–as it is likely the best medicine for both the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Thus, good blood glucose control, if you achieve it with the help of regular physical activity, has the potential to prevent or delay almost all of the potential long-term health complications of diabetes, and it’s never too late to get started reaping the health benefits.

            Why, then, do so many people still consider “exercise” to be a punishment of some sort to be avoided at all cost? Proofs of this misperception are everywhere. For instance, one group of people composed of 64 male and 112 female Mexicans ages 30 to 75 (with a mean age of 55 years) with type 2 diabetes reported following the correct dose of prescribed diabetes pills or insulin 78 percent of the time, eating recommended food portions over half of the time, and exercising three or more times per week only 44 percent of the time, making exercise the least-adhered-to part of their diabetes care plans. Based on other results of that study, your adherence to exercise is likely to be worse if you’re depressed or have a history of excessive alcohol intake; more importantly, however, you’ll be most likely to follow the recommendations if you are more knowledgeable about diabetes, regularly check your blood glucose at home, have good health, and communicate better with your doctor.

The more you know, the easier you’ll find your way to fitness
            Thus, it appears that arming yourself with more knowledge about diabetes is the first step to increasing your adherence to better diabetes self-care and to attaining good health–and you have already done that by reading this book. Another step would be to find ways to control your feelings of depression. When you are depressed or in an emotional funk of any sort, the last thing you usually feel motivated to do is anything resembling exercise. The funny thing about physical activity, as we discussed, is that it lowers levels of depression and anxiety–so your current sedentary behaviors may actually be contributing to your being depressed! To break this vicious cycle of depression and inactivity and to better motivate yourself in general, follow the tips that will start being given in the next column and continue in three parts.


Tip of the Day:  If you do it regularly, exercise is more likely to help you to lose weight and keep it off than any fad diet you have ever been on. Increasing your muscle mass likewise bumps up your calorie usage all day long. Diets, on the other hand, can cause a reduction in your metabolic rate, particularly if you are taking in fewer than 1,000 calories a day.

For more information, please consult The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit, No Matter Your Weight.  Check my Web site (www.shericolberg.com) for more details and to find information about my latest book for anyone with diabetes: 50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes by Sheri Colberg, PhD, and Steven V. Edelman, MD.