Diabetes is a complex metabolic condition, and your blood glucose levels can impact you not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. Often, feeling depressed or anxious about diabetes management can be demotivating for taking better care of yourself. Whether that care involves getting more physically active or making more healthful food choices, getting and staying more motivated can only benefit you and your blood glucose.
Remember: Exercise can lessen your feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, among other mental benefits. In many cases, treating anxiety or mild to moderate depression with regular exercise is at least as effective as, if not more effective than, using medications to treat these symptoms; even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. And the side effects from being regularly active are much more positive. Being active can also positively affect your self-confidence, body image, and self-esteem.
But some days knowing all those benefits may not be enough to get you going. We’ve got you covered. Check out the following sections for ideas for those days where you just can’t seem to get moving.
When you start a new exercise, checking your blood glucose before, during (if you’re active more than an hour), and after your workout pays off. A reading that changes — especially in the direction that you want it to — can be very rewarding and motivating. If you don’t check, you may never realize what a positive impact you can have on your diabetes simply by being active.
For example, say your blood glucose is a little high after you eat a meal, and you want it to go lower without taking (or releasing) any more insulin. You can exercise after your meal and bring your blood glucose down within two hours after eating and taking insulin, or you can avoid or lower post-meal spikes in your blood glucose. You wouldn’t know the extent of the effect you can have without using your blood glucose meter to check.
Start slowly with easier activities and progress cautiously to working out harder. Exercising too hard right out of the gate is likely to make you end up discouraged or injured, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while.
Remember: If you often complain about being too tired to exercise, your lack of physical activity is likely what’s making you feel sluggish. After you begin doing even light or moderate activities, your energy levels rise along with your fitness, and your physical (and mental) health improves.
Most adults need exercise to be fun, or they lose their motivation to do it over time. It’s human nature to avoid doing the things you really don’t like to do, so try to pick activities you truly enjoy, such as salsa dancing or golfing (as long as you walk and carry your own clubs). Having fun with your activities lets you more easily make them a permanent and integral part of your diabetes management. If you haven’t found any that you enjoy much yet, choose some new ones to take out for a test run (so to speak).
Tip: Choose an exercise that suits your physical condition and overcomes or works around your limitations.
An essential motivator involves mixing your workouts up with different activities. People commonly complain about exercise being boring. Feelings of boredom with your program can be the result of repeating the same exercises each day. To make it more exciting, try frequently doing different physical activities for different durations and at different intensities. Knowing that you don’t have to do the same workout day after day is motivating by itself.
Always have a backup plan that includes other activities you can do in case of inclement weather or other barriers to your planned exercise. For example, if a sudden snowstorm traps you at home on a day you planned to swim laps at the pool, be ready to walk on the treadmill or substitute some resistance activities. You can always distract yourself during your second-choice exercise to make the time pass more pleasantly. Read a book or magazine, watch your favorite TV program, listen to music or a book on tape, or talk with a friend on the phone while you’re working out.
Check back soon for the final five ways to get motivated to exercise—when you’re not!
Excerpted from Colberg, Sheri R., Chapter 22, “Ten Ways to Get Motivated to Exercise (When You’re Not)” in Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies. Wiley, 2018.