Exercise Tips for Diabetics

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, exercise can help you manage the disease.  According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes can benefit from a regular exercise program and from daily activities that involve physical activity.  But if you have never exercised before, how do you start?

To get an answer, I went to Darin Thom, DPT, the Interim Director of Rehabilitation at the Institute for Athletic Medicine.  The Institute offers a Diabetes Activity Program for people with type 2 diabetes or for anyone who needs help starting an exercise program to improve his or her health.  He gave me tips for diabetics who want to start an exercise program.

9 Exercise Tips for People with Diabetes

  1. Choose exercise that makes you feel good.  Find an activity that you enjoy and try not to view it as punishment. Of course, not everyone enjoys exercise while they are doing it, but you should choose an activity that makes you glad you did it once your session is complete.
  2. Set realistic expectations.  When setting goals, shoot for the low hanging fruit first and slowly progress to the top.  Set goals that are based on exercise behavior (for example, “I’ll walk for 20 minutes, 3 times per week”) rather than on a specific outcome like weight loss or reaching a certain pants or dress size.
  3. Give yourself credit.  Reward yourself and recognize your successes.  But remember that you’ll have both good and bad days.  You may find it helpful to keep a journal to monitor your progress.
  4. Identify roadblocks.  Think about the things that might stop you from completing your exercise session, If you can identify barriers, they become easier to eliminate so you can reach your goal.
  5. Be flexible.  Choose a type of exercise and workout times that fit your lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes.  It might also be helpful to have alternate activities for variety or for times when your regular exercise session isn’t possible.
  6. Understand exercise benefits. Know why you are exercising and what you hope to gain from sticking to your program.  Your doctor may be able to help you understand how exercise can improve your medical condition. But you may benefit from social and emotional benefits as well.  Being aware of these benefits will help you stick to the program.
  7. Get expert advice. Discuss guidelines and recommendations with your physical therapist and/or physician.  Start slowly and progress gradually over time.  Modest levels of activity can be quite effective in achieving health, social and psychological benefits.
  8. Set a schedule in advance and stick to it. Not sure when you’ll have time to exercise?  Use our downloadable Exercise Time Finder to find blocks of time where you can schedule healthy physical activity. Post your schedule where you can see it so it serves as a reminder of your commitment.
  9. Find a partner to exercise with you. Connect with others in your neighborhood, your work environment, your church or your community.  You’re more likely to stick to your plan if you have an exercise buddy.

Diabetes Activity Program – What to Expect

If you want to learn more about the Diabetes Activity Program contact the Institute for Athletic Medicine or speak to your physician about getting a referral.  For some patients, losing weight is a benefit of the program.  But Thom says that the goal is not necessarily weight loss, but rather improvements in the way each patient is able to move through typical daily activities.

Looking for other healthy changes you can make to improve your health? Check out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


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