Summer vacations mean plenty of time for relaxing on a beach, in a hammock, or on a deck. Vacations like this usually lead to literary goals like reading a book a week or plowing through the book club pick you’ve been sitting on since Memorial Day. But there’s a reason why people don’t reach their summer reading goals: television. In fact, television viewing can be as distracting to your health as it is to your waistline! The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the most serious and insufficiently addressed public health concerns of our time! A sedentary lifestyle more than doubles your risk of contracting heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, and even depression. A recent study published by the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism shows that television viewing is strongly linked to diabetes dis-ease. In a separate trial, the American Diabetes Association followed 14,811 men ages 40-75 over a 10-year period. A direct association was nerved between television watching and the development of diabetes. The men in the study that viewed television 19 hours per week had diabetes at a rate 150 times greater than in the group that watched less than 5 hours per week.
Exercise, on the other hand, acts like a shot of insulin in your body in that it lowers your blood sugar! Exercise forces your body’s muscles to take the sugar that is in circulation, or in your blood, and pulls it into the working muscle groups to use it for energy. Exercise also increases your insulin sensitivity, which means you will need less medication over time if you exercise often and of increasing intensity.
Diabetes medication works to either provide artificial insulin, or forces the body to make more insulin, depending on your medication. Either way, a generous amount of insulin is in circulation for many diabetics that are compliant with their medications. Overtime, however, the muscle cells are less sensitive to insulin, or less responsive to it. In other words, we then have a lot of insulin and a lot of sugar floating in the blood.Exercise, forces the muscles to have to need energy to move you, so this makes them recognize this insulin better. It’s kind of like when you do not need a ride and you see 10 if not more taxis drive by you, but since you don’t need a ride, you ignore the cabs until all of a sudden you realize you DO need a ride right away, then you begin to look with intent and flag one taxi down and get taken to your destination. When you live a sedentary lifestyle, it is like you not needing a taxi and 10 of them around. But as soon as you start moving, you need that insulin to bring in the sugar from the blood to be used for energy, just like when you all of a sudden need that ride after all, and you jump ion the taxi to get to your destination. Exercise therefore, lowers your blood sugar and lowers your need for medication over time by improving the way your body responds to the medication you take.
You do not have to start with a rigorous or extreme expectation that you will start hiking the woods or jog 3 miles after dinner starting Monday. Setting yourself for unrealistic goals that are hard to attain is setting yourself up for failure. You need to start with an increase of activity and build up stamina and strength to be able to do activity for longer periods of time. Nobody joins a triathlon without training, you are not any different. You need to have a plan to gradually increase activity. A good place to start is walking for 20-30 minutes every day. The time can be split into 2 or 3 sessions if you feel you are going to be out of breath after walking a few minutes, or to build up leg strength. The bottom line is to move more today than you did yesterday with the goal of increasing the length of time and intensity to the point where you can be out of breath comfortably for 3-5 minutes. This only happens after months of training your body to walk longer and faster. Or maybe you are able to start with a jogging program? No matter where you are in your health and fitness, you can build up to living an active life on purpose!
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Raquel Lopez RDN, LDN