Exercise enhances all aspects of your life. It isn’t just for weight loss and physical fitness. Exercise can help you feel happier, stronger and more relaxed. It can also improve creativity, productivity and energy levels, having a positive impact on your health, career and relationships.
For people living with diabetes, exercise is an
important tool for managing your blood glucose level (BGLs). Physical activity makes insulin work more effectively. This helps to manage your BGLs by using glucose for energy and utilising it more efficiently. As a result, this can be used to help achieve your target blood glucose levels.
In a recent Diabetes WA social media poll, 62% of respondents reported finding it hard to be physically active while isolating at home during the COVID-19 restrictions. This may be due to lack of time, no equipment, gym closure, home-schooling and looking after children, just a lack of motivation and will power, or a combination of these and other factors.
We’ve all been inundated with a plethora of “Exercise routines at home during COVID-19” media pieces. From setting up your own home gym equipment to watching yoga, HIIT or dance classes to celebrities and sports stars demonstrating their home workout regimes. Despite this saturation of home workout material, for 62% of us, we still found it difficult and couldn’t manage to keep up an exercise program.
While planned and scheduled physical activity is essential for long term good health, let’s look at alternatives to increase “incidental exercise” in our everyday home life – the activity you get when you’re not carrying out a planned workout or gym session.
Instead of putting the pressure on ourselves to complete scheduled workout routines, why not start by make small changes with cumulative benefits to our health by introducing as much incidental exercise and physical activity into our daily routine as possible?
Here are our suggestions for introducing incidental and non-conventional activity into your day at home:
“Snack” on activity
Fit short bursts of activity into your day whenever you can – whether it’s 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even just 2 minutes. All exercise that raises your heart rate is beneficial and cumulative throughout the day. Some examples of activity “snacks” include:
- Walk and pace while on the phone (up the stairs or hallway)
- Doing squats while the kettle is boiling
- Doing lunges while waiting for your food to heat up in the microwave
- Do sit-ups or planks during advertisement breaks on TV
Gardening counts as activity
It’s Autumn, the leaves have turned golden and are falling so get sweeping and raking! Gardening is a great activity and gets the heart pumping, whether it’s digging holes, raking leaves, mowing lawns or picking fruit.
Become a clean freak
Cleaning and household chores, like gardening, equates to physical activity. If it takes you 20 minutes to carry out a cleaning task – take an extra 5 minutes and clean some more. Not only will your house be sparkling clean but you’ll gain 25% more activity with the extra sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing or whatever the task at hand. Turn up your favourite playlist, groove away and the extra 5 minutes won’t feel like a chore at all.
Alternatively, up your game and make power-cleaning (similar to panic-cleaning when the in-laws arrive unannounced) your new normal.
Walk more steps at home
Increase your step count and cumulative daily movement by walking more – take just 10 or 15 minutes to get outside and go for a walk each day. Make it a regular after dinner or after lunch habit.
If you really can’t fit in a 15 or 20 minute dedicated walk into your day, then just up your steps – leave your phone in another room, walk the long way to get somewhere, stand up and walk during advertisement breaks on TV, make two trips instead of one from upstairs to downstairs, to and from the car or to hang the washing out. Actively walk your dog rather than letting your dog off the lead to walk himself while you watch. There are so many ways to add a few extra steps here and there.
Play with your kids
Don’t just supervise them, get down on the floor or get outside with them for 10 minutes and play with them.
Consciously stretching muscles throughout the day really improves muscle tone and counts as exercise and movement. Whether you’re squeezing a stress ball or squeezing your pelvic floor, butt or stomach muscles, it all counts. Try some stretching exercises while waiting at traffic lights, standing in a lift, waiting in a queue at the grocery store or while watching TV.
Kick start your day by having a good stretch every morning BEFORE you get out of bed helps set the tone for the day, energises you and gets your metabolism going.
Conversely, a quick stretch before going to bed at night helps to improve sleep quality and release tension built up over the day.
Incidental activity or exercise away from home
For activities outside the home, at work and when we eventually start to get out and about again our suggestions for adding incidental activity to your daily routine include:
- Walk and talk with a friend – don’t sit in the coffee shop talking. Grab your cup and move
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift – every time. Even if it is only down the stairs
- Park the car further away from work or the shopping centre
- Get off the bus or train stop earlier
- Stand on the bus or train rather than sit – great core workout, just remember to hold on!
- Walk around the office or upstairs to talk to a colleague rather than email or phone
- Arrange a walking or standing meeting rather than a round table sit down meeting
- Walk the long way to get somewhere
As lockdown restrictions begin to lift and we start to return to a new sense of post-isolation normality, we will all no doubt return to our old exercise routines and habits. However, wouldn’t it be great to also keep these new incidental activities and activity “snacks” and make them into regular habits for better long-term health?
Carly Luff, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Diabetes WA, comments that “increasing your incidental activity throughout the day can really add up and should not be overlooked. It is important to remember that formal, structured exercise is just as important as this focuses on making improvements to your health and wellbeing”.
Make incidental activity a priority this month and notice the difference you feel in your body and mind each day.
Why not register for our Type 1 Diabetes and Physical Exercise webinar next Friday 22 May at 10am? Click here for more information and to register.
Please note: If you are living with diabetes and use insulin or some oral medications that increase the risk of hypoglycaemia (low BGLs), it is important that you seek advice from your GP, Credentialled Diabetes Educator or Accredited Exercise Physiologist before starting any new exercise regime. Depending on the individual, physical activity affects your BGLs, so starting slowly and monitoring your BGLs whilst following health professional advice can make sure your activity plan suits you.