One of the biggest things you can do to reduce your diabetes risk is to exercise more regularly.
But many people find it hard to carve out a chunk of time in their daily lives to get into a serious fitness routine, or they can’t make it to a gym to work out.
Luckily, we don’t have to overhaul our lives and become intense athletes to gather the benefits of physical activity. Experts believe that little acts of physical activity like standing more, climbing stairs, taking short walks, etc. can help us to get more active bit by bit and get closer to the recommended amounts of physical activity for optimal health.
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Physical inactivity: a global concern
Physical activity refers to any body movements that require our bodies to expend energy. This can mean everything from traditional exercise or fitness activities like walking, running, cycling, or playing sports, but it can also involve even everyday tasks like cleaning, carrying, lifting, etc.
On the other hand, sedentary behavior refers to any activities we do while awake that don’t require energy expenditure, such as sitting or lying down.
The modern lifestyle where we spend most of our days working at a computer or spending leisure time in front of digital devices means we are sedentary a lot of the time and are rarely physically active. And on top of that, we are now living through a global pandemic, which has resulted in many people spending more time at home than they did in their pre-pandemic lifestyles. All that put together means that people are moving less now than ever before.
Unfortunately, it is well documented through extensive research that being inactive is not good for your health. One of the many harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle is an increased risk for diabetes.
Being more active reduces diabetes risk
When we aren’t active, our bodies are less able to manage blood sugar levels properly and we are put at a higher risk for developing diabetes.
One of the major risk factors for prediabetes (a condition where you have higher blood sugar levels than normal but don’t yet have diabetes) includes being physically active less than three times per week. Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes also goes up significantly if you are less active.
Fortunately, one of the best ways to prevent diabetes from ever occurring in the first place (and to reverse prediabetes if you have) it is to stay physically active.
A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who are mildly active during their leisure time have a 12% reduced risk for diabetes compared to people who are inactive. And people who are highly active during their leisure time have a 25% reduced risk. According to the CDC, people who follow a lifestyle program to lose weight and get active can reduce their chances of diabetes by about 60%.
Exercise isn’t just important for preventing diabetes; it is also a key part of managing diabetes if you develop it. Physical activity can help to lower HbA1c levels, lower insulin resistance, and reduce your heart disease risk.
Other harmful effects of not moving enough
It isn’t just your blood sugars that can be affected by lack of exercise. When you have an inactive lifestyle, your body as a whole takes a major toll.
If you don’t move your body regularly:
· You will be more likely to gain weight.
· You may lose muscle strength.
· Your immune system may get weakened.
· Your body will be more inflamed.
· Your hormones may not stay as balanced.
· Your blood won’t circulate as well.
· Your bones may weaken.
· You will be at a higher risk for other serious chronic health conditions like obesity, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.
12 simple ways to be more active every day
You don’t have to become an elite athlete, go to the gym for hours a day, or join CrossFit to get more active, prevent diabetes, and improve your health.
There are many ways to incorporate physical activity and exercise into your daily routines. Here are some simple activities to try:
1. Stand up when you talk on the phone, and walk around the house or the office during your conversation.
2. Take short walks when you need a break, even if it is around the house, around your yard, or to the end of the block and back. A few steps go a long way.
3. Check your mail every day, just to get the chance to walk to the mailbox.
4. Do chores like vacuuming, gardening, and more regularly, and try to do them at a more vigorous pace than usual to increase the intensity and challenge your body. Break up your chores throughout the week so you have a few minutes of tasks to do each day.
5. Move while watching TV instead of sitting or lying on the couch. Do some stretches, lift light hand weights, or pedal on a stationary bike a bit.
6. Whenever you are sitting in a chair for long periods, be intentional about working on your posture. Try not to use your chair’s back support, and instead engage your core while sitting.
7. Touch your toes regularly. Reach down and touch your toes when you are grabbing something from the bottom shelf or need to pick something up off the floor. Use the opportunity to get in a good stretch.
8. Play with your children or dogs for a few minutes several times per day. Throwing a ball, getting down low on the floor to play with blocks, or playing hide and seek are all good options.
9. Practice proper lifting techniques. Bend your knees and use your legs to lift when picking up your grocery bags, a heavy object, or even your children to work out your legs and protect your back. You can even repeat the motion a few times in a row to fit in a couple of safe squats whenever you pick something up.
10. Do lunges on your way to the bathroom. Make bathroom breaks a mini workout routine by challenging yourself to get yourself there by doing only lunges the whole way.
11. Turn on music when you are cooking, and get in the habit of moving your body a little bit extra while you enjoy your favorite tunes.
12. Look for excuses to use the stairs. Instead of bringing down all the laundry at once from upstairs, choose to take multiple trips. Leave your phone charging on another floor so that you have to climb the stairs to retrieve it when it’s ready. Each additional trip up and down the stairs is adding great movement to your day.
Fitting physical activity into your day-to-day life in simple ways is important if you want to be more active, sit less, and get more fit. Mini bouts of exercise can increase your overall physical activity level, which can protect you from diabetes and improve your general health.
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Moving, strengthening, and stretching are all things you can do every single day in simple ways that might not look like traditional exercise, but have benefits all the same. It’s the little things that can really add up, even if you can’t dedicate a large chunk of time each day to a fitness regime. These are particularly important during a time when many of us are at home with the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders.
So start small and build up gradually. Every bit counts, and you may be surprised how even a few little activities can challenge your body. You might even notice your muscles feeling a little more tired or sore than usual with just a few lunges on the way to the bathroom, a couple of minutes of playing with the kids, or a few curls with light weights while watching TV.