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10 fun ways to diabetic fitness: simple ideas to get you started today

10 fun ways to fitnessDiabetic fitness

Not a natural fitness fanatic? Don’t worry about it! Susan Erasmus shows how even the most determined couch potato can get some exercise this winter, and up their diabetic fitness.

If the thought of going to the gym makes you curl up under the duvet and reach for the TV remote, you’re not alone. The good news is that anything that gets your heart rate up and gets you out of your comfort zone counts as exercise. We all know how good getting active is for us: it relieves stress, prevents colds, reduces diabetic complications, promotes heart health and keeps your weight in check… Diabetic fitness is a must. But how?

But can it be fun? Here are 10 easy ways to sneak exercise into everyday life – a few diabetic fitness hacks!

1. Follow the 1km rule

Unless you’re in a tearing hurry, it’s pouring with rain or it’s the middle of the night, don’t take the car if your destination is less than a kilometre away. Just 10 minutes of walking a day will cut your heart disease risk by half, according to the Mayo Clinic in the USA. “Weight-bearing exercise like walking will also make your bones stronger,” says biokineticist Sarah Hall.

Top tip: Get a pedometer so you can track your progress and count how many steps you take each day. Or use the Health app on your phone!

2. Play with your kids

Kids are like Energizer bunnies: they just keep going. Why not join them – even if it’s only for twenty minutes in the park? Ball games or a game of frisbee are a fun way to take your mind off the fact that you’re getting exercise… Best of all? Your kids will love it too!

3. Move your feet

It’s as easy as pacing while you talk on the phone (instead of slouching in your chair), walking to the furthest toilets, making the trek to the printer at work or getting up off the couch to change the channel on the TV. Take every opportunity to move your feet and you’ll be surprised how much more active you feel!

4. Take the stairs… Every time

The beauty of taking the stairs instead of the lift is that even if it’s raining outside, you’re still doing your daily exercise. You don’t have to climb 20 floors if you work in a high-rise, but even one or two floors will have you feeling stronger than you did before.

Top tip:  Watch your posture as you climb the stairs, and ground your heel on each step so you don’t stretch your calf muscles too much.

5. Walk the dog

A 20 minute walk with your dog will not only make your pet happy but take you out in the fresh air and get your heart pumping. Make a promise to walk your dog every day – before or after work – and see how quickly your fitness improves.

6. Make your garden greener

You don’t have to start chopping down trees or clearing bushes – a bit of light weeding, planting and raking for half an hour a few times a week is all it takes to loosen up the muscles. Here’s how to start a kitchen garden.

7. Take two wheels, instead of four

Riding a bike to work or school is not only good for your health, but also for the environment – and your wallet, seeing as you’ll spend less on petrol. As an added bonus, you’ll never have to search for parking again…

8. Go dancing

Dancing is a fantastic workout – and so much fun you won’t even notice it! You also get to dress up, not down, and being out of breath is part of the fun… Even if it’s freezing outside, you can still work up a sweat dancing – and you never know who you might meet on the dance floor…

Top tip: Dancing is a great way to become more supple. The more we rest, the stiffer we get. So dance away!

9. Rethink the way you work

Instead of slumping into your office chair every day, why not invest in an exercise ball – it’s not only more fun to sit on, it will also strengthen your core muscles. Another option that is becoming more and more popular is a standing desk, where you’re on your feet all day instead of in a chair. Get more great fitness at work tips here.

10. Laugh it off

Looking for the most fun way to strengthen your stomach muscles? Rent a funny DVD, go to a live comedy show, or spend some time with a friend who cracks you up. Laughter is a fantastic form of exercise, and the best possible way to get fit!

A last thought about diabetic fitness

“It’s very important to set yourself a definite goal if you want to achieve diabetic fitness. This can be done by exercising with a friend, hiring a trainer, or just setting your own personal goal. If possible, a fitness test from a professional can help you deal with an old injury or a medical condition (like diabetes).”

Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

What to read next?

FAQ: Exercising with diabetes: Two biokineticists (fitness experts) answer all your questions about diabetes and exercise.

Exercise at work: For those days when you can’t even find 20 minutes, here are some ways to keep fit even while you’re working.

Share how you’ve found your way to diabetic fitness (or get encouragement to start!) on our Facebook community: Diabetic South Africans.

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  1. Critical place of physical exercise in PREVENTING type 2 DM….
    I joined the fatherless club many years ago courtesy of DM. About 2013, my half-brother, in his early 30s, was diagnosed with T2DM – he was admitted in the hospital where I work with a random blood glucose of more than 540mg/dl.
    After discharge, I worked on him to start a regular physical exercise program. He started and has continued till date. He stopped sulphonylurea few weeks after hospitalization and metformin 2 – 3 months later. He has had normal blood glucose control ( FBG and A1C) for the past 3 years.
    It made sense! In the primitive days when man was a hunter, farmer and was not sure where the next meal would come from, they lived long. The likes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Bible lived more than 100 years.
    Insulin resistance is an important component of T2DM. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, and when exercise is regular like meals, your guess is as good as mine!
    So, with regular physical exercise T2DM can be controlled without medications (??reversed), it’s emergence can be delayed or prevented. My half-brother’s case provides a ready testimony.
    In my practice (as a diabetologist/endocrinologist), the critical contribution of physical exercise to the management of persons living with T2DM is obvious.
    For more diabetes self management education, visit :

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.