It’s no secret that exercise plays a big role in your weight loss and diabetes prevention journey. But we’re not chasing a “summer body” goal – we’re after long-term health. To get there, it’s important to find ways to make activity a habit. Here are some tips to get started.
Choose activities you enjoy
There are many ways to be active. You don’t have to limit yourself to going to the gym or taking a fitness class. If that’s not your style, that’s OK! Get creative and think outside the box. “A lot of people forget the world is their gym,” says Danielle Repko, an ACE-certified health coach at OhioHealth Group. “If you’re a family person, walk or bike trails with your kids at your local park. If you like to dance, do that.”
“Sometimes it feels like going to the gym divides our family,” says Stephanie, a Diabetes Prevention Program participant. “Instead, I put time at the park on our family calendar, and my six-year-old holds me accountable. She can be on the swings while my older daughter plays basketball, and I can walk laps around the park keeping an eye on both of them.”
Finding exercises that you like may take some trial and error, but don’t give up. “If you dread an activity, you’ll find excuses not to do it,” says Repko. Find what works for you – it’s out there.
Add more activity to the things you already do
If you’re having a hard time squeezing structured exercise into your busy schedule, try instead to modify your regular activities.
Here are some ideas:
- Walk instead of driving somewhere
- Take the stairs or walk up escalators instead of riding them
- When you meet a friend for coffee, walk around the neighborhood instead of sitting in the shop
- Walk to the end of your driveway to get your mail instead of picking it up while still in your car
- Have walking meetings at work
- Park farther away from entrances when running errands
- Pace the sidelines at your child or grandchild’s sporting events
- Replace Sunday drives with Sunday walks
- Mow your lawn with a push mower instead of a riding mower
- Do some exercises while watching TV instead of sitting on the couch
Track your activity
Use a notebook, record your voice or use mobile apps like MyFitnessPal or WeightWatchers. The key is to make sure that you compile everything into a single activity log so you make sure you hit your weekly goals and see trends over time.
“I use MyFitnessPal, and it’s great because when you do an activity and record it, you get calorie credit toward what you eat that day,” says one Diabetes Prevention Program participant. “That’s really motivating.”
Everything is more fun with friends! Find a partner who you trust and enjoy spending time with, and who will hold you accountable for being active and tracking your activity.
Slow and steady wins the race
Don’t try to incorporate several different activities into your routine all at once. Start small, maybe just 20 minutes a week at first, and slowly build up to the goal of 150 minutes of activity each week.
“Try one new exercise, class or piece of equipment at a time,” says Repko. “If you haven’t worked out in a while, you might get sore, and that’s OK. But you don’t want to exhaust yourself to the point that you can talk yourself out of it the next day.”
Be sure to dress appropriately for your activity, use the right shoes, and drink water before, during and after your workout. Listen to your body – if you need to slow down or stop, give yourself a break. And if you’re pregnant or have existing health conditions, check with your healthcare provider before beginning a workout routine.
Give yourself time
Exercising and increasing your activity level might seem daunting at first, but keep in mind that the more you do it the easier it’ll get. You’ll also have more energy and gain confidence. And many diabetes prevention program participants say being more active helps them stay conscious of what they’re eating.
Update your action plan with ideas you’ve come up with for increasing your activity levels. And remember: you don’t have to reach 150 minutes of weekly activity immediately, just set weekly goals to challenge yourself and improve as time goes on.
“I’ve learned that an hour of exercise doesn’t have to mean a set time period, like 7:00–8:00 p.m. It’s just 60 minutes I can spread throughout the day,” says Stephanie. “I’ve been getting up 10-15 minutes earlier in the morning and walking around my house because sometimes I can’t get to the gym.”
If you find you’re struggling and need some extra help, try our suggestions for coping with challenges. Or, join an official Diabetes Prevention Program. Check with your employer (OhioHealth offers a program for associates), your local YMCA or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of recognized locations to find a program near you.