The Importance of Exercise
Most people are aware that exercise is important, but many of us either do not like to exercise or have the time to exercise. To further compound matters, some people exercise incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. Consequently, people stop exercising after becoming bored, frustrated or discouraged due to the lack of progress in their health, weight loss or other health objective.
Actually, exercise may be the closest thing to a “fountain of youth”. By taking yourself from a sedentary state you can, in effect, reduce your biological age by ten to fifteen years. Researchers who have conducted extensive studies on fitness and mortality have concluded “moderate levels of physical fitness and exercise are protective against early mortality.” Exercise imparts vigor and activity to all organs and maintains the healthful integrity of all their functions by improving the tone and quality of muscle tissue and stimulating the processes of digestion, absorption, metabolism, and elimination.
Exercise also strengthens the blood vessels, lungs, and heart, resulting in improved transfer of oxygen to the cells and increased circulation of the vascular and lymph systems. In addition, studies indicate that physical activity promotes the growth of mitochondria (the cell “energy factories”), leading to increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that transfers energy between living cells; and, this increase in cellular energy can trigger fat burning.
Years ago, the physical activity from farming, steel mills and other labor industries served many purposes, including stress reduction, removal of food congestion and toxins, and the slow down of the aging process. But, when our society shifted from this industrial state to more of a service state (office work, computers), our level of physical activity and our children’s level of physical activity decreased dramatically.
According to Mark Fenton (the walking guru), “We are living in an epidemic of physical inactivity and improper nutrition.” Interestingly, exercise is a form of physical activity that was “created” to address this loss of physical activity. It was discovered that the loss of physical activity led to early deterioration of the body and its parts, and eventually degenerative diseases/ailments such as backaches, constipation, headaches, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
In general, aerobic exercise is important for improving your cardiovascular health. However, anaerobic exercise (weight-resistance training) as part of a circuit-training regimen that includes aerobics is the optimum form of exercise that provides the maximum health benefit. Unfortunately, many people overdo the aerobic exercising to try to lose weight, and they end up losing lean muscle tissue, which lowers their metabolism rate, making it even more difficult to lose weight.
But, if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle, walking is the easiest form of exercise to get your body acclimated to moving again. You will need to initiate a gradual training regimen to prevent any unwanted injuries that many beginners experience due to their overcompensating for not exercising in years. Consistency and low-to-moderate intensity exercise are the ways to introduce your body to exercise and fun; and, you can grow from there by finding other forms of exercise (e.g. gardening, sports, bicycling, skiing, swimming, dancing, trampoline jumping) that you may enjoy and actually not see as just exercise.
Types of Exercise
There are three major types of exercise: stretching, aerobic, and anaerobic.
Stretching exercise is performed to passively or actively elongate soft tissue and muscles to improve the range of motion (ROM), reduce unnecessary muscle strains and tears, and provide flexibility. Exercise examples include: light stretching, inversion table, yoga, and Pilates.
Aerobic means oxygen. Aerobic exercise is continuous rhythmic movement of the major muscles groups without intermittent rest periods such that the muscles are working in an oxygen-rich state, which can cause the body to produce fat-burning enzymes under the right circumstances, e.g. after your body has burned off most of the glucose. Examples of aerobic exercise include: walking, step aerobics, running, swimming, other water exercises, bicycling, dancing, skiing, jumping, cardio kick-boxing, and rowing.
Anaerobic means lack of oxygen. Anaerobic exercise consists of short bursts of body movements with some resistance such that the muscles are working in an oxygen-deprived state, which causes the body to produce glucose-burning enzymes. Because you are expending energy faster than the body can replace it by metabolizing oxygen, intermittent rest periods are required during the exercise session. Anaerobic exercise puts the body into an anabolic state that builds lean muscle tissue and burns fat. Muscles that are already conditioned rely less on glycogen (stored glucose) and more on fat for fuel, so the muscles of a trained individual burn more body fat than those of people who do not exercise. Examples of anaerobic exercise include: weight/resistance training, interval strength training, water exercise, and weight lifting.
Emotional and Social Support
Social support is also critical to being able to conquer your diabetes and defeat it. Social support is an aspect of diabetes management that most diabetes programs fail to address.
There are many places where you can obtain emotional and social support:
- Your family members and friends
- Your community, e.g. a local support group
- Your church, e.g. pastor, church leader, church member
- Your inner spirit (spirituality)
- A member of your healthcare team, i.e. dietitian, health coach
- Training class, workshop, webinar, teleseminar
- Internet, e.g. online support group
- Educational materials, e.g. diabetes book, DVD
Diabetic Support Groups
There are several types of support groups to meet individual needs. Support groups may be led by a professional, such as a nurse, social worker, diabetes educator, psychologist or by other patients. These groups usually focus on providing key information and sharing their personal experiences, successes and failures, but they also provide hope and emotional support, so that members realize that they are not alone in their battle with diabetes.
Because support groups can vary in approach, size and how often they meet, patients should find a group that they are comfortable with and that meets their individual needs.
Sharing your feelings and experiences with a group that’s struggling with the same disease you have can be very empowering and relaxing. A support group can make living with diabetes or any disease a lot easier in the short term. The basic goal of a support group is to give you a way to share and learn about your disease. A group also helps you to feel understood, and can give you new ideas to help cope with problems. It can also help you feel good about yourself because you’ll be helping others in the group.
Note: If you would like to set up and run a diabetic support group, read this web page.
The most common social effect of diabetes is the fear of rejection or being treated differently by your family and friends. This leads diabetics to feeling ashamed and hiding their disease, which creates undue stress. The social effect is even worse for teenagers due to ridicule from their peers.
Trying to follow your diabetic diet can be difficult in social situations. Family or friends may appear offended by the person who will not eat a piece of homemade pie or other dessert. It can be difficult to avoid overindulging in the presence of people who eat large quantities of food. This can be especially troublesome for children and teens.
Discrimination and isolation are also real factors affecting diabetics. Some adolescents with Type 2 diabetes tend to come from lower income or minority families and often struggle with obesity from poor eating habits. Peer ridicule or lack of social invitations may produce depression or social isolation, which in turn may undermine his desire to self-manage his diabetic care. Often not knowing other kids with diabetes can create a self-stigma that "I'm different than others."
People with diabetes may have to refrain from parties, picnics, and some group activities due to the need to monitor or maintain their blood sugar, leading to stigmatization or group isolation. Adults who eat out or drink alcohol frequently may find their temptations increase at a party or out with friends. Resisting the offers of party snacks or refusing to go out to eat can still incur jests or snide comments from peers who are unaware of the diabetic's condition so he goes along with everyone else and his self-care suffers.
People with diabetes also tend to suffer from social discrimination, i.e. problems related to licence driving, employment and getting insurance.
The Death to Diabetes program addresses these issues head-on, and provides several strategies that allow diabetics to function effectively in every type of social situation, i.e. work, party, picnic, birthday, anniversary, etc. The Death to Diabetes program also addresses how to deal with various social discrimination because you're diabetic.
Note: These social impacts can be dramatic for young adults because of how being diabetic can impact them in so many other areas, i.e. sports, college, long study hours, frat parties, sex, cafeteria food, eating out, etc.
- Surround yourself with positive people that strengthen your hope.
- Join a local diabetic support group to learn how to help yourself and to help others. Join a diabetic support forum if you have a computer.
- Educate yourself about the science – this will prevent you from being misled by well-intentioned people in the support group or forum.
- Learn from others in the support group by being observant. This may sound a little crude, but you should observe what sick people do and do the opposite, that is don’t do what sick people do.
- If you are married or have a significant other, share your diabetes management with them. Most diabetics have better glucose control, a better sex life and a better relationship when they openly communicate and share their diabetes management with their spouse or partner. For example, if your partner knows that you tend to get down or moody when you have a high or low glucose reading, then, they will realize that it wasn’t something that they did and, as a result, they may be able to help to lift your spirits.
- Speak out and let other family members know that you’re diabetic. Don’t be embarrassed to share what is happening to you. For whatever reason, diseases like diabetes are not shared among family members. It’s kept quiet, which only increases the probability that someone else in the family will become diabetic, primarily because of the silence and the poor eating habits being passed down to each new generation.
- Design your own support team of family members, relatives, church members, friends, and others.
- Be wary of those who may become jealous once you start to feel and look healthy. Reach out to help them but if they don’t want to be helped, don’t allow them to drag you down. You must let them go until they are ready.
- Join a community or church group of some kind to help others in your local community. Become a community advocate. This will take your mind off the disease and bring hope to others.
- If necessary, consider some form of counseling. Many diabetics become depressed when they are initially diagnosed or after fighting the disease unsuccessfully for several years. Some diabetics feel so bad they cannot sleep or eat. In these cases, therapy or counseling may help. Some people are afraid to admit they need help. They believe that others will think they are crazy if they talk to a professional about their problems. But it’s smart to get help when you need it, especially if you have the symptoms of depression, e.g. poor sleep, changes in appetite, crying, sad thoughts, self-pity.