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Managing Diabetes through Family Fitness

Diabetes presents families with plenty of challenges, but can it actually help families get healthier? This World Diabetes Day, we’re exploring the different opportunities diabetes offers the whole family to take control of their health as a group.

Exercise is one of the key pillars of managing diabetes well. Getting in shape helps you manage your blood sugar levels by helping your muscles burn energy more effectively. And while exercise is not everybody’s idea of fun, exercise can help every member of the family, diabetes or not, keep their bodies strong and healthy. When you are excited about exercise, you can serve as a positive example of fitness for your family members. In turn, their enthusiasm will help keep you moving.

In that spirit, here are three tips for encouraging the whole family to get active together.

Step One: Talk About Getting Active

It is always tempting to jump in to new exciting habits and work out the details as you go, but in cases when everyone aims to work out together, conversation is key. Does your family understand yet why working out will make it easier for you to manage diabetes? How do your lives differ in ways that might affect the fitness plan? Everything from work schedules to other illnesses and physical challenges can be issues if you do not plan wisely as a group.

If you do not want to start this conversation alone, begin by asking a spouse or other close adult family member to attend your next check-up, and let the doctor help you explain why exercising is essential to your long-term health. This will also take the pressure off of you to answer specific scientific questions if your relatives are curious about how diabetes works. Ultimately, by talking together about the decision to get more active and the intentions behind it, the family agrees on a fitness plan.

Step Two: Get Excited About Exercise

While talking to your family about ways you can get fit together, come up with a list of activities that everybody will enjoy. Remember that exercise is not necessarily going to the gym and lifting weights. Everything from working in the family garden to dancing to your favorite music helps burn the sugar in your body. Ask your friends and family what they do to get their heart rate up. Then make a list based around how often you can do each activity. It might look something like this:

  1. Things you can do daily (Easy stuff that requires no planning), like kicking around a football
  2. Things you can do weekly (Stuff that requires a bit of planning), like taking a hike around a nearby nature preserve
  3. Things you can do monthly (You may want to plan for this far in advance), like going kayaking around a nearby lake

Remember that the Accu-Chek Life with Diabetes blog is full of great resources that can point towards fun-filled exercise the whole family can enjoy.

Step Three: Establish an Exercise Habit

If an exercise routine is fun and interesting, it is much easier to turn it into a habit. As you explore different activities together, pay attention to what people like and do not like so you can choose activities that include everybody. If you have a less coordinated member of your family, then maybe taking a bike ride instead of rollerblading is a more suitable choice for you. Do you want a more relaxing workout to ease stress that comes with a life change? Swimming, tai chi, and yoga exercises for diabetes and stress management are great options. Whatever activities you choose, the American Diabetes Association suggests getting 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.1 That can sound like a lot of time to fill, but if you keep exploring new and fun activities, the easier it will be to stay active and fill 150 minutes a week with activity.

While you work to make exercise a part of your normal routine, do not be afraid to pat each other on the back and give each other lots of high fives! Once you hit your groove and find awesome activities that everyone enjoys, try assigning each family member a day every week or month to choose and coordinate an activity. This can help empower everyone to turn exercise from a chore into a treasured family tradition.

Get ready! Get set! Go! There is no time better than the present to start talking to your family about being more active. Start exploring some fun things to do together that will get your blood pumping and on an exciting path to managing your diabetes.

Have you read the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes yet?

Download today for more ideas about how your family can live healthier lives every day!

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1 “What We Recommend.” American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/types-of-activity/what-we-reco.... Accessed October 23, 2018

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