Staying Honest During the Holidays - Effective Exercise Strategies

Ann M. Swank, PhD, FACSM

| Nov 1, 2002

The holiday season presents many challenges for people with diabetes. Because we tend to eat more (at office parties and family outings) and exercise less during these months, weight gain could typically be as much as five to 10 pounds.

An individual who takes insulin maintains glucose control by balancing exercise, food and insulin levels. This delicate balance can be disrupted during the holidays, however, requiring adjustments in insulin doses to offset changes in exercise routines and eating habits.

For people with type 2 diabetes who control with oral medications or diet and exercise, even a small weight gain can significantly affect glucose control. Weight main-tenance is critical.

This article presents four exercise strategies that can be incorporated into your holiday lifestyle. Each strategy involves working with other people to accomplish your goals. This "buddy system" can help individuals with diabetes exercise safely and adhere to an ex-ercise plan.

Get Moving

The first strategy is to include "move about" activities in holiday-related travels.

During shopping trips to retail and grocery stores, for example, be sure to take stairs instead of elevators, and try to park a greater distance from the store en-trance.

In addition, if neighbors and friends live close by, walk over to visit them during the holidays rather than driving.

Find an Alternative Exercise Venue

A significant challenge to maintaining activity during the holiday season is the change in weather.

Rather than giving up your activities when the weather outside is frightful, consider identifying alternative environments for exercise.

For example, many shopping malls welcome walkers in the early morning before stores open. Shopping malls are climate-controlled areas that offer a safe environment for exercise.

In my neighborhood, three of our local hospitals offer walking clubs, with walks scheduled at convenient times during the day. These walking clubs provide a friendly environment as well as a supervised area for exercise.

Check with your local hospitals and shopping malls to see whether such

a service is provided. It might help you continue your exercise routine de-spite inclement weather.

Involve Family in Exercise Routines

Holidays are times for family interaction. A third strategy for overcoming the challenges of the holiday season is to involve your family in your exercise routine.

You might consider taking family-oriented walks or cycling trips around your neighborhood. Visit-ing friends in the neighborhood and caroling with family members are events that can keep you moving yet not disrupt your holiday plans.

Diversify Your Exercise Routine

A fourth strategy-and my personal favorite-is to diversify your exercise habits. For example, you might try adding another modality, such as a modest strength-training program, or adding another aerobic activity, such as cycling or stair climbing, to your current routine.

Although consistent exercise habits are important for a person with diabetes, with the appropriate guidance, you can change your routine fairly easily. For instance, hiring a qualified personal trainer for several supervised sessions may be helpful in adding strength training to your exercise routine.

Depending on where you live, a session with a personal trainer who is qualified to address exercise issues associated with diabetes might run from $35 to $100 per hour.

As always, remember to consult your physician before starting any new exercise plan.

Ann M. Swank, PhD, FACSM, is the director of the Exercise Physiology Lab at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky.

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