COVID-19 and Prediabetes: Staying Active while Sheltering in Place

During quarantine, the safest option is staying at home as much as possible. For people with prediabetes, staying active is a challenge.
COVID-19 and Prediabetes: Staying Active while Sheltering in Place
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Coronavirus looks like it is here to stay for a while as the number of cases continues to climb. Authorities are getting ready for the long haul as schools, gyms, bars, and more businesses are closing for weeks or more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends canceling or postponing gatherings of 50 or more people for the next 8 weeks starting March 15 (that takes us to May 10, for anyone who is counting).

It appears that the new normal will be staying at home as much as possible to avoid public places and contact with too many people. This is already a change for people who are used to attending events and socializing. For people with prediabetes, staying at home poses another challenge: being physically active

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COVID-19 Risk with Prediabetes

The CDC warns that certain groups of people are at high risk for COVID-19 infections and for more serious infections that can lead to hospitalizations and the need for ventilation. These include older adults as well as people with underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. 

Prediabetes, also known as borderline diabetes, is a high-risk condition for diabetes, and having diabetes increases your risk for infections such as coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses. That is one reason why sticking to your Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) plan during this time is a good idea, even if circumstances dictate a change in your daily routine.

Physical Activity and Prediabetes Management

People with prediabetes who get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity have a lower risk for developing diabetes. That is why Lark DPP encourages you to increase physical activity levels if you are not already active, or to achieve a goal of 150 or more minutes per week if that is realistic for you. 

Physical activity increases insulin sensitivity, which helps lower blood sugar. Along with careful eating, staying active also helps with weight control. Losing extra pounds is another important part of lowering diabetes risk, and is a main goal of the DPP.

Physical Activity and COVID-19

There are other reasons to stay active during the COVID-19 outbreak when you have prediabetes, even during shelter-in-place and other social distancing measures. Exercise:

  • Lifts mood, which is critical when faced with the challenge of staying inside and finding alternative activities to do to substitute for some of your usual ones.
  • Improves cholesterol profile and lowers blood pressure, which are important in prediabetes since it is a risk factor for these conditions and heart disease.
  • Helps you sleep better and manage stress better, which can both be difficult when schedules are disrupted.

Outdoor Activities

That leaves the question: what can you do to stay fit if you are locked out of the gym or are stuck indoors? Swimming, team sports, and group fitness classes at the gym are out of the question while sheltering in place or staying at least 6 feet away from others, but there are plenty of other indoors and outdoors options that you can do by yourself to stay active.

Outdoor activities are safest if you can stay at least 6 feet away from other people. You’ll get fresh air without coming into contact with others. If you need company, phoning a friend while exercising can do the trick. 

  • Walking
  • Bicycling (safely!)
  • Hiking
  • Jogging

Meeting a friend at the park for tennis or to work out together while staying a few feet apart are some other choices. Just be sure to clean hands and wipe down equipment before and after.

Indoor Activities

Exercising indoors can be preferable for reasons such as:

  • Needing to watch the kids
  • Avoiding poor weather
  • Feeling safer in your own home
  • Simply preferring indoor activities to the great outdoors.

If you already have a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, you are good to go with your cardio workout. 

If you are not yet set up for working out at home, it is not that difficult to get started. These are some options for workouts if you have absolutely no equipment.

  • Aerobics or dancing on your own or with workout videos.
  • Circuits with push-ups, squats, front and side lunges, calf raíses, squats, jumping jacks, crunches, planks, and any other exercise you can think of to get moving. It helps to go from one exercise to another without resting, and you can alternate more intense ones with less intense ones to get a break while still moving.
  • Yoga and mat pilates.

There is some inexpensive equipment you can purchase that can help you work out if you want. Resistance bands, a pair of dumbbells, or a kettlebell can give you a good resistance training session and cost less than $20. A step platform can give you a more intense aerobic workout without the high impact of jumping.

To fight boredom, it can help to watch the news, a movie, or TV programs while working out. If you like, there are some streaming services that let you take exercise classes live while watching the instructor online. There are also services that offer a variety exercise classes and workouts whenever you like.

Breaking Up Sitting Time

Staying at home more may make it easier to sit around more: on the couch watching television, while working from home, and reading or playing board or card games with family members. It is now more than ever that you can benefit from being aware of sitting for too long without moving

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  • Mimicking the office environment can help increase activity. For example, instead of walking to chat with a coworker or walking to the break room for coffee as you might while in the office, you could walk around the house while talking on the phone to colleagues or before heading to the kitchen for a drink of water.
  • Enabling notifications on your phone lets Lark remind you if you have been sitting for long periods of time.
  • Setting up your computer at a standing desk, or making a makeshift standing desk simply by putting the laptop on a countertop for a while to work, can allow you to engage a few more muscles and move around a bit.

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 may take unprecedented changes to daily routines, but staying healthy through it all is still a priority. With prediabetes, physical activity is essential to optimal health, so it is a good idea to prepare for working out on your own. Lark DPP can help you track activity and stay motivated to take great care of yourself.