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Step 3: Become Even More Fit (Part 1)

Jan 16, 2007

Help your patients keep their resolutions to lose weight. Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM has some great ideas on Maximizing Your Patient’s Physical Activities.

SheriStep 3: Become Even More Fit (Part 1)
Maximizing Your Physical Activities

By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM


After having focused on weight loss as your primary goal all these years, you may be having trouble switching gears and focusing on becoming more active and fit instead. However, you now know that you can become healthy without losing all (or even any) of your excess weight. And if you do manage to lose some weight, you’ll only be likely to keep it off if you’re regularly physically active.

So, your new goal should be to stop worrying about your weight and instead become as physically active as possible each and every day to maximize your caloric expenditure and BG use—and you don’t necessarily have to join the nearest gym to do so. Just take the stairs instead of the elevator; park your car at the far end of the lot; walk in place during TV commercials; use fewer labor-saving devices; and take the dog out for a walk as part of your daily routine.

However, while simply moving more is extremely beneficial to your overall health and diabetes control, you should also focus on maximizing your physical activities. Even for myself, I find that if I don’t occasionally include a harder workout in my weekly routine, my insulin sensitivity starts to backslide. Thus, the third step on your way to diabetes fitness is to optimize your fitness and insulin action from the activities you do by getting the most that you possibly can out of each and every one of them. For example, walking is good to get you started moving, but you can further enhance your fitness by varying your walking speed and distance. You’ll learn lots of “tricks” to help you optimize every type of activity in this fitness step, along with proper techniques for exercises, appropriate stretches, easy resistance exercises that you can do at home or away, and methods for preventing and dealing with the inevitable occasional muscle soreness or athletic injury.

My goal is to help you and your patients maximize your fitness by working specifically on your endurance, strength, flexibility, and body “core.”

A physical activity pyramid is a good starting place

To enhance your basic understanding of the various components of an overall plan for optimal fitness, you can use a physical activity “pyramid” (similar in concept to older versions of the food guide pyramid) to give general recommendations for appropriate daily physical activity for adults and older teens. The base of this pyramid recommends that you fill each day with unstructured activities simply by being as active as possible. It includes activities such as walking, doing housework, gardening, and the like. The next level recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or recreational sports three to five days per week, including more structured activities such as cycling or swimming. Both strength and flexibility activities are listed in the two to three days per week range. Finally, cutting down on all sedentary pursuits, including TV watching, computer and video games, and sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time for any reason is strongly recommended.

While this pyramid is a good place to start, it’s vitally important that you structure your own exercise plan. If you don’t tailor it to your individual needs and desires, it will be doomed to fail. Once you have completed step 2 and are moving more, you will benefit further from including more structured aerobic activities, such as planned walking or using a treadmill, stationary cycle, rower, or other aerobic workout machine on a regular basis. Increasing your endurance is not as hard as you might think, but you’ll need to start out very conservatively in order to allow your body time to adapt to your new activity. Move in the direction of exercising a minimum of three days a week for 20 to 30 minutes a day (for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time), and then gradually work up to 45 to 60 minutes per day and/or five days per week for optimal fitness gains.


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: You may be able to make major gains in your aerobic fitness level just by adding in as little as six to eight minutes of harder exercise a week to your current workouts. Try interspersing short periods of faster walking or harder intervals into whatever exercise you are doing for optimal gains.

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

See more features from Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM