Okay, you are committed to getting healthy and fit to get rid of your diabetes. You are going to eat the right foods and exercise every day because you have finally decided to beat this disease once and for all. Now you know you should eat only when you’re hungry and not eat so much that you are not hungry again for the next meal. My basic exercise rules for my diabetic patients work hand in hand with the understanding of true hunger. Generally if you eat three times a day, you should exercise three times a day. If you eat twice a day, you should exercise twice a day. Eat only when you are hungry, and that usually means eat only after you have exercised to work up an appetite.
Ideally, calories should be expended via exercise or physical activity in between meals so that before food is eaten, you have earned it. Exercising two to three times a day is usually necessary to achieve true hunger before a meal. The point is that you should not be eating food unless hunger demands you do. And then when you see how much better food tastes when you are truly hungry, you can appreciate that eating less and exercising more increases the pleasure of the food you do eat.
A good place to start your exercise regimen is with walking. The ultimate goal is working up to thirty minutes three times a day. Of course if you have not been walking regularly, we don’t start out at that level. I recommend beginning with ten minutes three times a day. These short intervals make the exercise very easy to fit into our busy lives, and they allow us to quickly build up stamina over a few short weeks. If ten minutes is too easy, extend to fifteen minutes three times a day.
TEN EASY EXERCISES YOU CAN DO ANYWHERE
- Walk briskly.
- Put on some music and dance with a bouncing motion, transferring your weight from leg to leg.
- Make-believe jump rope—jump in place as if holding a jump rope.
- Get up and down from your chair 50 to 100 times.
- Walk up and down a flight of stairs (or much more than one flight).
- Do jumping jacks.
- Hop around the room in a circle or back and forth in a line first on one foot, then on the other. Start out with 30 seconds per foot.
- Rise up and down on your toes.
- Stand on one leg and hold on to a chair or a wall for balance. Extend your free leg in front of you so the heel stretches out about 12 inches in front of your standing leg. Now, bend your standing leg knee so you lower your body about 6 inches, and then come back up. Do this 25 times and then switch legs. Repeat X times on each leg, depending on your fitness level and exercise tolerance.
- Jog in place. Pick your knees up higher as you get in better physical condition.
Modify your exercise prescription to your individual capacity abilities and needs. Jumping is more vigorous than walking, so start out with only one minute of jumping or hopping if this is new for you. Also use a variety of the above exercise techniques (and many others) at each exercise session so that you involve a variety of skills and muscles. Start slowly, but do as much as you can handle comfortably.
The worse your physical condition and exercise tolerance, the more frequently you need to exercise.
If you are overweight and poorly conditioned, fatigue and soreness from exercise can be a limiting factor. The objective is to work up your exercise tolerance gradually. Walk, do a few flights of stairs, and then if you can’t do anymore, wait a few hours and try again. The more out of shape you are, the more trouble you’ll have doing much exercise, so the more frequently you’ll have to exercise. If you can’t exercise much at one time, you have to engage in shorter periods of regular but more frequent exercise. If you can only do a little exercise, such as five minutes or less, then plan on doing something at least four times a day. Exercise in spurts throughout the day. As time goes by, you will be able to increase the intensity and duration of the exercises. When you can spend an hour or more in the gym exercising vigorously, you can exercise less frequently.
You can burn calories, lower your blood sugar, and melt away fat with a variety of calorie-burning activities and exercises. However, calorie-burning activities such as walking, stair-climbing, biking, swimming, and using the elliptical machine are not sufficient. Weight training to increase muscular strength is also important. So often, diabetics complain it is difficult for them to lose weight even if they cut back significantly on their food intake. The way to address this is by combining the right diet with an assortment of exercises, especially muscle- strengthening exercises. Invariably, people who complain that their metabolic rate is low and they have trouble losing weight no matter what they eat have weak muscles and are poorly conditioned. Increasing their strength by weight training and doing other weight-bearing exercises creates an increase in muscle density, which helps to metabolize more calories. This critical increase in muscle density will help normalize metabolism, and as a result will address the problem that’s causing diabetes. Walking up flights of stairs is the very best exercise.
Walk up as many flights of stairs as you can each day, and keep track of the total number of flights you do. Walking twenty to thirty flights a day is an effective way to meet your fitness goal. Most of my patients have a health club in their home—that is, a stairway. Many even have a second stairway going down to the basement. I ask them to walk up and down the two flights ten times in the morning and ten times at night. It takes only ten minutes, but it really works.
I also encourage patients to join a real health club and use a variety of equipment that uses many body parts for maximum results. The more muscle groups that are exercised, the more metabolically active players you have on your team to help you meet your goals. It is definitely helpful to have access to an assortment of exercise equipment, such as elliptical machines, treadmills, stair steppers, recumbent bicycles, and numerous resistance machines. When you tire of one machine, you can move on to a new one.
Strength-building exercise should be done daily too. However, the muscle groups exercised should be rotated so the same muscles are not exercised two days in a row. For example, on Monday, do exercises to strengthen your chest, shoulders, and middle back (latissimus dorsi). On Tuesday, do abdominals, lower back, and thighs. Wednesday, do biceps, triceps, forearms, upper back (trapezius), and calves. Thursday, start with chest, shoulders, and middle back again.
Of course, this is done in coordination with the other walking, running, jumping, climbing, stairs, swimming, tennis, racket ball, incline treadmill, biking, or other calorie-burning activities so as not to work the same muscle groups heavily two days in a row. For example, avoid stair climbing, elliptical, or biking the day after doing thigh-strengthening exercises. However, walking, treadmill walking, jogging, swimming, continuous dancing, and rowing machine exercises can be done every day in addition to strength training because these exercises will not make your thighs too sore. Ideally, I recommend my diabetic patients walk at least a mile every morning, exercise for ten minutes or so before lunch, and then exercise vigorously with jumping and strength training in the late afternoon or early evening before dinner.
It is also helpful to minimizing sitting during the day. If you work at a desk, consider purchasing a draft table which has a work surface at a height convenient for standing. Or work part of the day with your laptop or papers on an elevated counter so you can stand. Nowadays, you can purchase computer stands that rise up so you can work standing. If you’re talking on the phone, stand up and walk as you talk. If you sit all day, you will make this program more difficult. Sitting all day is unhealthy, even if you exercise regularly. If you work standing and then sit for a bit, then work standing again, you will be more alert and efficient on the job while you’re also training your body to be more fit.
Is Exercise Essential for Success?
Exercise is extremely important, but if your ability to be active and to exercise is limited, do not despair. My menu plans will still enable you to lose weight. People who are unable to exercise just require a stricter diet. Some people have health conditions that preclude them from much exercising. However, an exercise prescription can be devised to fit your capabilities. Almost everyone can do something; even those who cannot walk can do arm, abdominal, and back exercises with light weights or use an arm cycle. You can listen to upbeat music and rhythmically bounce up and down for a full song. Even if your full body weight does not lift off the ground, see if you can do some mild bouncing and hopping as you are dancing. Try to keep dancing for a full five minutes or more.
Exercise will facilitate your weight loss and make you healthier. Vigorous exercise has a powerful effect on promoting longevity. If you have the will to adopt this plan and take good care of yourself, you will find the will to exercise. Start slow and gradually work up, so you do not injure yourself. But immediately begin to do more than you are doing now.
You now know the nutritional science behind diabetes and why drugs are not the solution. You understand the ins and outs of what you should eat, and you have the six critical steps for preparation and achieving your health goals. It is now time to get slim and fit to prevent or reverse diabetes for good.