A recent study by the University of Florida has shown a distinct association between high blood sugars and a sedentary lifestyle. The surprising facet of this study was that participants were not considered clinically overweight or obese. This led researchers to conclude that activity levels should be factored into the criteria for diagnosing prediabetes.
So if you’re resting on your laurels (literally!) because you’re at a normal weight, it’s time to reconsider that approach, especially in the face of prediabetes. And if you are, like most of us, carrying around a little extra (or a lot extra) increasing your overall daily level of activity will help you to drop that critical 5-7% in excess weight that has been shown to make a measurable impact on lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Get More Active Vs. Eat Better: What’s Best for Prediabetes?
Let’s be honest, this is not an either/or scenario. If you’ve got prediabetes and your goal is to reverse it or to postpone the potential onset of diabetes, then you’re going to have to do both to some degree. But let’s talk about the different benefits of both diet and exercise right now.
Controlling your weight is paramount to preventing not only diabetes but a whole host of health challenges. If you do struggle with maintaining or achieving a healthy weight, losing just 5% of your weight can reduce your chances of developing diabetes by almost 58%! That’s pretty achievable for most people, so it’s well worth the effort to cut your risk in half.
In addition to affecting weight, eating a healthier diet will allow your metabolism to run more efficiently. Reducing your consumption of processed foods and opting for a more whole foods and plant-based or flexitarian (mostly meatless) menu has such long-term and far-reaching health benefits that prediabetes and diabetes are just the tip of the iceberg.
So if diet helps with your metabolism, what does exercise do for you?
Exercise (physical activity) has the natural effect of lowering your blood sugar levels. In addition, it’s been shown to increase your insulin sensitivity which in turn helps several of your organs work more efficiently, including the pancreas.
So when you look at both of those things, it’s clear to see that it’s not exercise vs. diet. It’s about building an active lifestyle AND a healthy eating plan which together will be the best defense against the progression of prediabetes and development of type 2 diabetes. For the greatest protection, they must go hand-in-hand.
Getting Active Is More Than Just Joining A Gym
Your first thought might be that it’s time to join a gym and start taking a couple of classes each week. Or to actually go to the gym you’ve been a member of since your New Year’s Resolution…last year! And that’s a great start.
It’s important to your overall health, both physical and mental, to get in a few good, heart-pumping workouts each week. And don’t forget strength or resistance training! According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, strength training reduces the risk of prediabetes progressing to type 2. It also has protective qualities for your heart!
If you also throw in flexibility and balance work, like stretching and yoga, then you’re really on your way to seeing clear benefits in your day to day life such as not getting winded going up a flight of stairs or being able to tie your own shoes without turning beet-red in the face.
Hey, we’ve all been there!
But beyond that, the American Diabetes Association recommends embracing their 3 for 30 approach as well. 3 for 30 stands for 3 minutes of light activity for every 30 minutes of sitting. It’s a super simple way to know how much to add based on what’s going on in your day. This is in addition to the standard 2.5 hours or 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity recommended every week. And while that might seem like a lot, especially when you look at it as one big chunk, it only comes down to about 2% of your waking hours every week.
So how, in the midst of your already busy and hectic day are you supposed to add in all this extra activity?
Well, I am glad you asked! I’ve put together a list of 65 ideas to help you get started and spark your imagination. Many of them involve walking – because it’s one of the easiest ways to get moving. It has the added bonus of being utterly affordable and not requiring much in the way of fancy equipment other than comfortable and supportive shoes.
What we’re really looking for here are ways we can use time we’re already spending but in a more physical way. Ways that increase your activity or your body’s effort. And if you think of the ultimate goal of reaching those magical 150 minutes of moderately-paced activity a week – which may sound like a lot – it’s actually less than 2% of your waking hours. So let’s look at small opportunities to get started.
There are probably a few things on this list that you wouldn’t have thought of. There may even be a few suggestions that you’ll outright laugh at. That’s okay. Not everything will appeal to everyone, but something should appeal to you.
And if nothing does appeal, I challenge you to think of a way to get your 3 minutes for every 30 in and let me know about what you did by commenting below – so I can add it to the list!
Now, let’s get moving…
65 Way to Get More Active Every Day
Like the ADA’s 3 for 30 approach, studies have shown that short bursts of activity during the day can be incredibly effective when it comes to physical fitness. So take your pick from the list whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
- Wherever possible walk, don’t drive (we all know this, but do it!)
- Always take the stairs, even if you don’t have to
- Clean your house vigorously
- Use a shopping basket, not a cart/carriage/buggy for weightlifting!
- Park as far away as possible and walk
- Play with your pets
- Play with your kids
- Be charitable – join a walk or run
- Walk at lunch, with coworkers
- Find an online or YouTube class like Yoga With Adriene
- Get off the bus or train one stop before or after yours and walk
- Take your neighbor’s dog for a walk
- Get out into the garden and weed
- Mow the lawn yourself instead of paying someone else
- Wash your car by hand
- Shovel instead of snow blowing
- Get up and move during TV commercials
- Hide your TV remote and get up to change the channel #oldschool
- Give your kitchen mixer a vacation and hand mix your recipes
- Chose to live in a walk-up/non-elevator building
- Trade in your Sunday drive for a Sunday stroll
- Go shopping at the mall, but leave your money behind and just walk and window shop
- Use a standing desk for all of part of your workday
- Walk around your office or workplace for 5-6 minutes for every hour you work, especially if you have a desk job
- Join a local sports league
- Close your blinds, turn up the beats, and dance like no one can see you!
- Trade in movie nights for golfing (even mini-putt!), dancing, or indoor rock climbing
- Stand or walk while you’re talking on the phone (don’t text and walk!)
- Have walking meetings at work
- Go grocery shopping instead of doing home delivery or curbside pickup
- Instead of a coffee break at work, climb a few flights of stairs for 5-10 minutes, both up and down
- If you work in an office, use the copier or choose the bathroom located farthest from your desk
- March in place while you’re waiting for the microwave or Keurig (maybe just at home!)
- When in season, buy fruit at Pick Your Own places like open farms and orchards
- Give your car a rest on the weekends and walk or bike everywhere when possible
- Fidget more – tap your feet, shake your leg; even small movements add up!
- Embrace your inner Marie Kondo and spend a weekend decluttering your home
- Volunteer – anywhere, especially animal shelters and kitchens; places where you’ll be engaged and active
- Give your special someone a massage (and get one in return). If you’ve ever tried to give someone a really good massage you’ll know what a workout this can be!
- Do some ironing
- Deskercise! Exercise at your desk – did you know you can peddle while you work?
- Workout on your couch – yes, it’s a thing! Check out the Couch core workout.
- Cook at home and do your own chopping and mixing
- Walk your kids to school
- Fly a kite at the park
- Move your trash can away from your desk (far away if you can!)
- Get up and talk to coworkers at their desk instead of via email, phone, or messaging
- Make your bed every morning and do a quick tidy up
- Don’t just stand there while you’re brushing your teeth, march in place, squat, do lunges, step side to side. Do the same thing when you dry your hair!
- Hand wash and dry your dishes
- Swap your desk chair for a stability ball chair and bounce your day away
- If you’re downstairs, use the upstairs bathroom, and vice versa
- Lift weights or use resistance bands while watching TV
- Skip the drive-thru, park and head into your bank, the coffee shop, even the *gasp* fast food joint (and get a salad or grilled chicken – hold the sauce!)
- Nix the coffee date with friends and opt for a game of golf, tennis, or a walk in the park
- Keep a pair of sneakers at work and in your car so you always have comfortable walking shoes at the ready
- If your neighborhood isn’t conducive to walking or biking, drive to one that is and explore new communities in your area
- Go build a snowman, even if you don’t have kids! (Have a snowball fight!)
- Do wall-push ups or crunches while you wait for that pot to boil
- Host a game night but choose games like charades or Xbox Fitness/Wii Fit competitions
- Dust off that frisbee and head to the park
- Jump rope…or hula hoop if you’ve got one!
- Challenge the kids to a water balloon fight (preferably outside!)
- Paint a room in your home
- Rearrange the furniture in a room
So there you have it. 65 different ways to get more active. Will you pick one or two to try today? Or will you come up with your own unique way of staying in motion? Share your idea in the comment section below and we might even add it to our list!