Three Easy Steps to Managing Diabetes through Family Fitness
Diabetes presents families with plenty of challenges, but can it actually help families get healthier? This World Diabetes Day, we’re exploring the different opportunities diabetes offers the whole family to take control of their health as a group. Exercise is one of the key pillars of managing diabetes well. Physical activity helps control blood sugar levels and lower risk of heart disease and nerve damage1. While exercise is not everybody’s idea of fun, it can help every member of the family, diabetic or not, keep their bodies strong and healthy. When you are excited about exercise, you can serve as a positive example of fitness for your family members. In turn, their enthusiasm will help keep you moving.In that spirit, here are three tips for encouraging the whole family to get active together.
Step One: Talk About Getting Active
It is always tempting to jump in to new exciting habits and work out the details as you go, but in cases when everyone aims to work out together, conversation is key. Does your family understand yet why working out will make it easier for you to manage diabetes? How do your lives differ in ways that might affect the fitness plan? Everything from work schedules to other illnesses and physical challenges can be issues if you do not plan wisely as a group. If you do not want to start this conversation alone, begin by asking a spouse or other close family member to attend your next check-up, and let the doctor help you explain why exercising is essential to your long-term health. This will also take the pressure off you to answer specific scientific questions if your relatives are curious about how diabetes works. Ultimately, by talking together about the decision to get more active and the intentions behind it, the family agrees on a fitness plan.
Step Two: Get Excited About Exercise
While talking to your family about ways you can get fit together, come up with a list of activities that everybody will enjoy. Remember that exercise is not necessarily going to the gym and lifting weights. Everything from working in the family garden, walking the dog, washing the car or dancing to your favorite music helps manage the sugar in your body. Ask your friends and family what they do to get their heart rate up. Then make a list based around how often you can do each activity. It might look something like this:
- Things you can do daily (Easy stuff that requires no planning). Kick around the football
- Things you can do weekly (Stuff that requires a bit of planning). Take a hike around a nearby nature reserve
- Things you can do monthly (You may want to plan for this far in advance). Go kayaking around a nearby lake
Remember that the internet is full of great resources that can point towards fun-filled exercise the whole family can enjoy.
Step Three: Establish an Exercise Habit
If an exercise routine is fun and interesting, it is much easier to turn it into a habit. As you explore different activities together, pay attention to what people like and do not like so you can choose activities that include everybody. If you have a less coordinated member of your family, then maybe taking a bike ride instead of rollerblading is a more suitable choice for you. Do you want a more relaxing workout to ease stress that comes with a life change? Swimming, tai chi, and yoga exercises for diabetes and stress management are great options. Whatever activities you choose, the American Diabetes Association suggests getting 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week2. That can sound like a lot of time to fill, but if you keep exploring new and fun activities, the easier it will be to stay active and fill 150 minutes a week with activity. While you work to make exercise a part of your normal routine, do not be afraid to pat each other on the back and give each other lots of high fives! Once you hit your groove and find awesome activities that everyone enjoys, try assigning each family member a day every week or month to choose and coordinate an activity. This can help empower everyone to turn exercise from a chore into a treasured family tradition.
Get ready! Get set! Go! There is no time better than the present to start talking to your family about being more active. Start exploring some fun things to do together that will get your blood pumping and on an exciting path to managing your diabetes.
- Get Active! Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). May 6, 2021 [cited 2021, Nov 10]. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/active.html
- Sheri R. Colberg et al., Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care Nov 2016, 39 (11) 2065-2079; DOI: 10.2337/dc16-1728