exercise

Diabetic-friendly energy drinks?

Are you a sportsperson with diabetes? Do you have any advice to share with Mike about energy drinks?

Good day,

I am a Type 2 diabetic who enjoys cycling. I’m looking for advice on energy drinks or sports drinks etc that are diabetic-friendly.

Just drinking water doesn’t help when the energy dips…

Thank you!

– Mike

Embrace the chill

We’ve got a dose of winter workout motivation that will ensure the only layers you’ll be adding this chilly season are layers of clothing! Lee-Anne Spurdens gives us the ideas.

While it’s tempting to stay under a blanket all winter long, hibernating isn’t good for your body or mind. Exercise is essential to manage your diabetes well, keep away the winter blues and build a healthy body – which also means you’ll be able to battle the winter germs better. Need some ideas to get you started? Here are seven of our favourites.

  1. Skipping Mobile, inexpensive and effective, this might be the most winter-friendly workout around. If it’s too cold or wet to skip outdoors, any indoor non-slippery surface will do (even in front of the TV). Skipping ups the heart rate, burns calories and strengthens muscles and bones. Start with five to 10 minutes a day.
  2. Boot camp If a little authority is what you need to get moving, you could be a winter warrior in the making! Boot Camp Academy SA (bcasa.co.za) offers “military” style boot camp classes across the country for all fitness levels.
  3. Exercise videos If you prefer to be drilled from the comfort (and warmth) of your living room, an exercise DVD is a good option. And who better to whip you into shape than martial arts guru, Billy Blanks? His legendary Tae Bo workouts are a mix of taekwondo and boxing, and available from takealot.com.
  4. Fit radio Sometimes all you need to get you moving is the right music. The Fit Radio app delivers a fresh new workout soundtrack whenever you need it and is guaranteed to get you off the couch, even if all you do is dance around your living room. Which brings us to…
  5. Dancing A tonic for body and soul, the ultimate stress buster and a fun way to warm up a cold body! From ballet and ballroom to hip hop and salsa, there are adult classes available for just about every type of dance. Check out dancedirectory.co.za to find a class in your area – soon you’ll be walking taller, sitting straighter and bending down more easily.
  6. Walking A brisk, daily 30-minute walk can help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, manage high blood pressure and heart disease, improve balance and lift your spirits.
  7. Running If you’re ready (and willing) to take your walking up a notch, why not try a local park run? These free, timed 5km runs take place every week all over the world, are open to all levels and are a great way to get the whole family moving and make new workout buddies. Visit parkrun.com to find a run near you.

Morning movers and shakers

Generate some heat on chilly winter mornings with this 3-minute blood-pumping routine:

  • Jumping Jacks: Jump your feet out and sweep your arms up over your head, then jump feet together and bring arms to your side. Repeat for 60 seconds.
  • Side squats: Squat as low as you can, stand up and take a step to the side. Squat down again. Repeat on the other side. Keep going for 60 seconds.
  • Plank: Get into a push-up position. Bend your arms to the floor, and rest your body weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, your body in a straight line from head to feet. Hold for 60 seconds.

How to motivate yourself to get off the couch

Ask the expert: Ilona Padayachee, Biokineticist

Enjoyment: This is the key to staying motivated, so make sure you enjoy whatever exercise you choose.

Goal setting: This reaffirms a sense of mission, purpose and direction. Set goals during winter to keep you motivated, and reward yourself for sticking to your exercise routine.

Variety: Change up your workout routine to prevent it from becoming boring – try different activities, train outdoors as well as in, and work out with a partner to keep things interesting.

Happy feet

Your toes might be in hiding over winter, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Podiatrist Anette Thompson has this advice for healthy winter feet:

  • Treat dry, flaky skin with an exfoliating foot scrub and a good foot and heel balm.
  • Warm feet up by soaking them in warm (not hot) water for five to 10 minutes. Follow with foot balm and thick socks for extra snugness.
  • Shoes with inflexible soles prevent natural bending at the ball of the foot, which can cause circulation problems. Tight shoes and a toe shape that does not match your foot shape can also limit circulation. Wear low-heeled shoes with flexible soles that don’t squeeze the front of your foot (this can cause inflammation of the big toes or ingrown toenails). Buy a larger size if you wear thick socks, and choose shoes with built-in cushioning – this promotes circulation under the ball of the foot.

Ways to exercise at work

Long office hours and travelling to work by bus or car can make it hard to find the time to exercise. Nicole McCreedy gives us some fun ways to squeeze it in at work.

It’s no surprise that most people spend too much time each day sitting. These habits are having a negative effect on our long-term health and are increasingly linked to being overweight and obese, the development of Type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and even an early death. How’s that for inspiration to get moving!

Experts say that those of us who work desk-based jobs should aim to stand and do light activity throughout the day. In some countries, workers are encouraged to spend up to half of their eight-hour working day standing. This may not be possible for many of us, but we can all take at least ten minutes here and there at work to fit in some physical activity.

Being active is especially important when you have diabetes. There are many benefits to regular activity, but the biggest one for diabetics is that it makes it easier to control your blood sugar levels. Regular movement can also help you avoid sore wrists, stiffness and repetitive motion injuries.

Use the space available

Making simple adjustments to your routine can help to increase your daily activity. We’ve all been told to take the stairs instead of the lift, but there are many other things you can do to inject some movement into your day. Avoid sitting at your desk during your lunch break, and instead head outside or to the parking lot for a quick stroll. If you need to take a meeting, suggest that you “walk and talk” with your colleagues. Another option is to find an empty office or conference room where you can shadow box, run on the spot or do a few walk-lunges or some yoga poses.

If you have diabetes, it’s obviously important to be aware of your blood sugar levels. Depending on the type of activity you plan to do, carry a snack or eat a 15g portion of carbohydrate beforehand to prevent low blood sugar.

Exercises to do at your desk

We asked biokineticist Ilona Padayachee and podiatrist Anette Thompson for a few exercises you can do while seated at your desk to tone your muscles and lift your heart rate, without breaking a sweat.

Top tip! Remember to repeat the exercise on each side.

  • Seated toe raises: Seated upright at your desk with your core pulled in tightly, lift your toes while keeping your heels firmly on the ground. When you lower your toes, push them into the ground and pull them back. Alternate your feet. Complete 3 sets with 10 repetitions in each set.
  • Seated straight-leg raises: Keep your back straight, your chest out and your shoulders down. Straighten your right leg out in front of you and tighten the quadricep muscle. Raise the foot off the floor approximately one ruler height (20 to 30 cm). Repeat on the left side.
  • Leg extensions: Seated upright at your desk with your core pulled in tightly, sit on the edge of your chair and extend your right leg until it is level with your hip. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then lower your leg slowly. Alternate sides. Complete as many as you can and remember to increase your holding time slightly every week.
  • Calf raises: Stand in front of a desk or other piece of furniture you can hold on to for balance. Raise your heels of the floor and slowly lower them.
  • Heel raises: These can be done while standing or seated. Lift your heels up as high as possible. Keep the weight on the big toe side of your foot. Hold for two to three seconds at the top, then lower. Repeat 25 times. Heel raises improve circulation and tone the calves.

Ask the expert: Anette Thompson, Podiatrist

“Doing 300 heel raises a day is the same as going for a long walk. People who haven’t done them before should aim for 50 heel raises in a day, then gradually build up the repetitions until you can do them all in your lunchtime.”

FAQ: Exercising with diabetes

As a parent, you obviously want what’s best for your child – but what is really best when it comes to exercise and children with diabetes? Riekie Human tells us what you need to know (adults can learn a little something, too!).

Although experts agree that it’s crucial for kids with diabetes to exercise, you need to make sure they’re doing it safely. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think… We got all the answers from experts in the field.

What kind of exercise should my child do?

“The most helpful exercises encourage muscle contraction and increase the effect of insulin.” What does that mean? The exercise helps more glucose to be transported out of the blood stream and into the cells to be used: body weight exercise and resistance training are particularly good at this. However, young children should take part in all kinds of exercise, particularly cardiovascular for the development and health of the heart, lungs and lipid profiles (cholesterol), and team sports to encourage skills and develop confidence. Sarah Hall, Biokineticist at Wellness in Motion, Morningside

Ball sports are especially good for children with diabetes. “They involve a combination of exercises like jogging and sprinting, and research has found that this is best for stability in blood sugar levels.” Contact sports like karate can be tricky, especially for children with insulin pumps, as the pump could get damaged – and the same applies to horse riding. Andrew Heilbrunn, Head Biokineticist at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) in Houghton

What time of day should my child exercise?

The best time for kids with diabetes to exercise is before breakfast and before supper. “They’re less likely to hit lows at those times. Before breakfast, they’ll be quite insulin-resistant and are unlikely to experience a drop in blood sugar.” The worst time to exercise? An hour or two after meals, when insulin in the system can cause more frequent lows.

Andrew Heilbrunn

How long should my child exercise for?

That depends on the child: what they’re capable of and how fit they are. “The general recommendation is 1 to 2 hours, but take into account the type of exercise, your child’s age and their fitness level. And remember to limit exercise to 30 to 45 minutes if it’s a new sport or type of exercise – and then closely monitor their blood sugar levels, before and after exercising.”

Sarah Hall

What else do I need to know about exercise and diabetes?

It’s important to give the coach a list of symptoms of high and low blood sugar, as well as detailed instructions of what to do if your child goes low. “A child with low blood sugar will be irritable, have a headache and blurry vision, and generally feel horrible.” If your child’s blood sugar is too high, they will feel tired and thirsty.

Dr Claudine Lee, GP

If your child exercises for more than one hour, any time of the day, they should have a protein snack, like full-cream yoghurt or small yoghurt-coated rice cakes, before going to bed. “Sustained energy overnight is crucial, as it prevents hypos between 2 and 4am. “Also, always have a quick-acting sugar snack on hand (fruit juice, sweets or honey) to treat low blood sugar, and make sure the coach knows how to use a glucagon pen in case of emergency.

Andrew Heilbrunn 

Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist Studies have shown that children with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are generally less physically active than those without: the exact opposite of what the situation should be!

Some advantages of increased physical activity for children with diabetes:

  • Better health
  • More confidence
  • An improved response to insulin and blood sugar control
  • A greater awareness of diabetes and their bodies
  • The prevention of conditions associated with diabetes, like obesity and heart disease
  • Improved weight management

Top Tips

  • Don’t let your child exercise if their blood sugar is too high: over 16mmol/l or too low: under 4mmol/l, or if ketones are present.
  • Make sure your child’s blood sugar is in the target range before exercise, in order to avoid low blood sugar.
  • Talk with your doctor about lowering your child’s insulin dose before exercise, if necessary.
  • Inject insulin before exercise in a site other than the body parts about to be used. For example, if your child will be running, don’t inject in the legs.
  • Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar for 12 hours after exercise, especially if it’s a new kind of exercise.
  • Make sure your child drinks water so they don’t get dehydrated.
  • Choose something fun for you and your child to do together and they’ll learn that getting active is just as enjoyable as relaxing. You could go to dance classes, swim, learn to surf, take up yoga, go on hikes, play tennis or even join a soccer team. There’s even something called laughter yoga if you really want to have a good time.

Exercise classes for diabetics

Are you looking for a fun way to get fit? Here are a few exercise classes specifically for people with diabetes – we’ll add to this list as we find more! Please email us with details of other fun fitness classes for diabetics.


Latha Singh: Chatsworth, Durban

I’ve been an exercise instructor for the past 28 years. I teach exercise classes for women and senior citizen groups in and around Chatsworth.

I would love to spread my knowledge and literally hold exercise classes at hospitals (like Chatsmed Garden Life Hospital) and other venues to make people aware of the importance of exercise, especially people with diabetes.

My classes are currently at:

  • Malvern Library (Queensburgh): Monday and Wednesday from 8am to 9am
  • Shallcross Heidi School Hall: Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8am to 9am
  • Woodhurst Library, Chatsworth: Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm to 7pm
  • Mobeni Heights Temple Hall: Wednesdays from 10am to 11am
  • Woodhurst Library: Thursdays from 11am to 11.30am

Email Latha to find out more.

 

Kayla Murphy: Randburg, Johannesburg

We are a private biokinetics practice in Randburg, Johannesburg. We specialise in youth and adult diabetic exercise classes: Fit for Diabetes (see below PDF for more info).

We are happy to do any free classes or participate in educational talks to get more involved and contribute to the diabetic community of South Africa.

Email Kayla to find out more.

Download (PDF, 1.05MB)

Yoga may help reduce heart disease risk

The millenary practice of yoga is fast gaining ground on a worldwide scale; known as an efficient stress buster that brings practitioners greater vitality and a better mood, it also helps prevent heart disease, which is good news for people with diabetes.

Heart disease a risk for people with diabetes

Adults with diabetes have a higher likelihood of heart disease for various reasons. Those with Type 2 diabetes, in particular, may have conditions that can increase this risk, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and obesity. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is another modifiable major risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, so one way to reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke is to keep physically active through aerobic activity and, new studies indicate, yoga.

Yoga as a means to reduce cardiovascular disease risk

In a review of 37 randomized controlled trials, researchers from the Netherlands and the USA found that yoga can provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as commonly recommended activities such as cycling or fast walking. These two forms of exercise could have comparable working mechanisms; that is, yoga could have more physiological benefits, and exercise more relaxing effects than was originally thought.

As a deeply spiritual practice affecting physical and mental health positively, yoga is being embraced in a plethora of mental health settings, including rehabilitation centres for substance abuse. Science is more accepting than in the past of so-called ‘alternative therapies’ like yoga since numerous studies have shown that spirituality is linked to greater happiness and reduced anxiety and depression – key factors in managing diabetes from an integrated perspective.

In the studies, yoga practice was associated with significant improvement in Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, and lipid levels, particularly when patients also took medication.

Yoga and aerobic activity a winning combination

Another, more recent study, presented at the American College of Cardiology in 2017, found that those who already have heart disease but practiced yoga in addition to aerobics, saw twice the reduction in BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, as those who practiced either of these activities exclusively. Combining these activities could also increase exercise capacity and improve heart function.

Of course, even if you only have time for yoga, you will still be doing yourself plenty of good, since heart rate variability (an indicator of optimal heart health) is higher in yoga practitioners. Yet another study showed that yoga can reduce atrial fibrillation (‘heart quivering’) while improving heart rate, blood pressure, and general quality of life.

If you have diabetes, it is important to lower your likelihood of heart disease by staying active, keeping to a healthy weight, and tapping into the potential of combining yoga and aerobic activities, making time for each throughout the week. By boosting physiological changes and lower stress levels, you can kill two birds with one stone, finding greater enjoyment and vitality as an added bonus.

Explore the outdoors

A weekend hike is not just a fun, affordable activity for the whole family, it’s also one of the best ways to enjoy South Africa’s natural beauty. And a great way to get fit! What more could you ask for? Nicole McCreedy leads the way.

Hiking is good for the heart and the soul. Being in nature can help you to de-stress and reduce anxiety levels after a busy week, and when you hike you get all the same benefits of walking – and a few more. Hiking is a powerful cardiovascular workout that is known to reduce cholesterol, which means less risk of heart disease, and it can improve blood pressure. Keeping your heart fit and healthy is important for all diabetics.

So what’s in a hike? The following ingredients:

1 x beautiful trail

1 x pair of shoes

1 x backpack to carry all the essentials

1 x spirit of adventure

What to bring on your hike:

Luckily, you don’t need much equipment to hike. It’s important to research the route beforehand, though, especially if you’re going seriously off-road. Make sure you always hike with other people and pack these essentials:

  • A cellphone in case you need to make an emergency call
  • A GPS or map so that you don’t get lost.
  • Enough water. It’s easy to become dehydrated, especially in warm weather.
  • A low blood sugar snack (like dried fruit or juice).
  • A mid-hike snack (like fresh fruit, crackers or nuts) to help you maintain your blood sugar levels.
  • Your glucometer, strips and insulin, if necessary.
  • A hat and sunblock to shield you from the sun.
  • Rain gear if it looks like rain!

How to prepare for a hike

Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

The nature of hiking means that your terrain is unstable and unpredictable. Each step is different from the one before and requires a combination of balance, strength and stability, using one leg at a time. Here’s how to prepare for a hike:

  • Start by doing exercises with one leg at a time to isolate muscle groups and encourage improved balance and joint stability. This is called unilateral training.
  • Strengthen your glutes and calves to help with climbing and hiking for a longer period of time. Choose exercises like step-ups, standing side leg raises, static lunges and single leg balancing. Try to do 3 sets of 20 of each.
  • Alignment is key. Your spine will be taking the load with each step, so be sure to keep your hip, knee and ankle in one straight line for all exercises.
  • Always include core exercises that strengthen your abdominals and try to keep your posture upright during the hike.
  • To prevent injury during the hike, ensure that you take regular breaks and stretch. 

Taking care of your feet

Ask the expert: Anette Thompson, Podiatrist

Here are 5 tips to take care of your feet while out and about hiking:

  1. Condition your feet It is important to train the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your ankles and feet for hiking with a backpack.
  2. Get good footwear
and socks Shoes that fit correctly are the most important way to keep your feet happy. When choosing socks, avoid moisture-retaining cotton: instead choose wool or synthetic socks.
  3. 3.  Manage your toenails and skin
 Socks will catch on nails that are too long or that have rough edges, putting pressure on the nail bed. Take special care of the skin on your heels.
  4. Learn how to prevent blisters
 Experiment with different blister patching products and different taping techniques. Find what works for your feet and then perfect the method.
  5. Carry a small foot care kit
 A small foot care kit carried in a ziplock bag is easy to carry with your backpack. Include either Vaseline or talcum powder, a few alcohol wipes to clean the skin, some blister plasters and a safety pin to drain blisters (if necessary!).

Gather the group

Struggling to get started on a fitness routine? Maybe you need to try exercising in a group. It’s far more fun, and just as good for you!

There’s something about pounding the pavement on your own that is just no fun. Swimming lengths can also be lonely, and so can going to the gym. But who said getting fit had to be a solo exercise? Here are some of our favourite ways to get active with your friends and family members.

Walking group

All you need is a pair of walking shoes and an adventurous spirit and you can start a walking group. Decide on a route that you want to follow, and start slowly – just a kilometre or two will do. It’s a good idea to have a goal in mind so that you can work up to longer distances. How about 10km by the end of the year?

5-a-side soccer

Finding enough people for a full soccer team might be a challenge, but 5-a-side soccer only needs ten people to play the whole game, and ensures that everyone gets a real work-out. You can play on any field or in a garden (because there are fewer players, you need less space) and the game doesn’t last as long – generally an hour in total. 

Boot camp

While you can pay a lot to attend official boot camp classes, you can also set up your own boot camp with a few friends. Decide what areas of the body you specifically want to work and set out a four-week exercise programme. You might want to include things like sit-ups, push-ups, jogging around a track or on the spot, doing star jumps, short sprints, skipping and lifting weights. Just make sure everyone is in agreement with what the session looks like – and don’t leave anyone behind!

Ask the expert: Ilona Padayachee, Biokineticist

The FITT principle is very helpful to keep in mind with walking.

F – Frequency

I – Intensity

T – Time

T – Type

Frequency: Aim to exercise for 3 to 5 days a week.

If you are a beginner try not to overdo it, start off slowly and progress to longer and faster walks.

Intensity: This is very important in any exercise programme.

Walking at the correct speed can make a huge difference to how effective the exercise is.

Time: Start slow and build up your time.

A beginner walker should start out at 10 to 12 minutes, including 5 minutes warm-up. Then increase it to 20 minutes by adding 2 minutes to the walk every week.

Type: Choose the type or kind of activity that you enjoy.

It’s always easier to stick to something you like doing!

Diabetic foot care tips:

No matter how much fun you’re having getting fit, don’t forget to look after your feet! As a diabetic, foot care is really important. Bad circulation in the feet and legs, often noticed as leg pain and leg cramps, is one of the problems facing diabetics, and can lead to chronic ulcers, numbness and even gangrene. Daily care for the feet is essential.

Here are some great tips:

  • Exercise and regular movement is good for circulation.
  • If possible, raise your feet when you’re sitting down.
  • Check your feet every day for swelling, marks and red spots.
  • Check your feet for ‘cold areas’ (a sign of poor circulation).
  • Check your feet for ‘hot areas’ (a sign of infection).
  • Dry your feet well after bathing, showering or swimming.
  • Apply a good natural cream to the feet every day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that do not pinch the feet or toes.
  • Keep toenails trimmed and file sharp edges.

Take to the trail

Tired of pounding the pavement or looking for a fun way to get active? Trail running may be the sport for you. More and more people are heading to the mountains, the veld and the forests to get away from the city, spend time in nature and run free.

More than just a work-out

Trail running is good for the body, mind and soul. It’s also good for the wallet – except for the price of running shoes, it doesn’t cost a thing. Trail running is different to road running because the ground you’re running on changes all the time and isn’t flat and hard like a road. It helps “proprioception”, our sense of balance and body awareness. It also develops strength in muscles and joints, and gives you stronger ankles and hip joints. Softer surfaces like grass, sand, and gravel are easier on the joints than tar. Trail running will help you burn more calories and shed fat faster as your body uses a greater amount of energy to use more muscles to move on the uneven surface. Paying attention to each step you take will also distract your mind from your everyday To Do list (always a good thing!) Don’t forget to stop for a moment, breathe in the fresh air, and give thanks for where you are.

Heading off-road

Although there is less risk of injury with trail running than road running, it’s a good idea in the beginning to include some exercises in your routine to strengthen your core, pelvic muscles, legs, knees and ankles to cope with the impact to these parts of the body. Follow a careful training programme where you can gradually build up your distance and speed. It’s important to be aware of your diabetic needs while you’re trail running, too. Don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning, and make sure you snack before you start running so that your blood sugar doesn’t go low while you’re on the trail.

When you’re trail running, it’s important to look where you’re going – vehicle tracks, puddles, logs and rocks are all obstacles that can trip you up, and low-hanging tree branches need to be ducked in time.

Here are some tips for different types of terrain:

Sand is difficult to run on, especially when it’s loose. Don’t run in a straight line, rather search for the firmest footing. The harder sand can usually be found on the very edge of the trail.

Muddy surfaces can be slippery, be careful!

Rocky trails mean you need to lift your legs higher to avoid tripping. Try to step lightly with a flat foot, so that if it’s not stable or you slip, you can quickly move your foot.

Forest paths can hide rocks and roots. Be on the lookout and avoid stepping on them if you you can.

Looking for runs in you area? Take a look at www.nightjartravel.com/trail-running

Want to see more of our favourite trails? Visit www.sweetlifemag.co.za/community

Expert tip: Get the right shoes.

Ask the expert: Nelfrie Kemp, Podiatry Association of South Africa

The most important tip when taking up any running is to buy the right shoes and make sure they fit properly. Foot care is vital if you have diabetes. When fitting a running shoe, choose a pair one size larger than your normal shoe size as your feet swell when you exercise. It’s a good idea to use sport socks that are thick from toe to heel and fit you perfectly. This will help prevent pins and needles or a burning sensation in the feet. Preferably wear ankle-height socks as secret socks can move and curl up under your foot, which can cause blisters. Always tie your laces, but make sure that it they are not tied too loosely or tightly.

Get more diabetic foot tips at www.podiatrist.co.za

Expert tip: Be aware

Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

  • As well as the trail running, do some balance training either at home or in the gym by doing single leg exercises or balancing on wobble boards.
  • Use your whole body while you are trail running: your arms for balance and support, your core to help draw your legs up for climbing the rocky parts, and a mid-foot to front-of-foot strike with shorter, quicker strides for more control and adjustment.
  • Pay close attention to what you eat and drink before and during the run, especially on longer runs. Always have something sweet on you in case your blood sugar goes low, and never run alone.
  • Know the route you are running by mapping the route on GPS. It will give you a good idea of the height you may be climbing and the exact distance you will be covering. Remember to start with shorter routes and slowly build up distance.

Have a ball

No matter the season exercising outdoors beats running on a treadmill in the gym. If you want to keep fit and have a social life, then soccer, touch rugby or rounders is the answer. Nicole McCreedy tells us how to get started.

The beauty of ball sports is that they’re so easy to learn. All you need to do is find an open space to play, organize some equipment and two teams, and learn a few basic rules. While your focus is on winning, you’ll be walking, running and laughing your way to better health.

Touch Rugby

The basics of touch rugby are similar to the traditional version of the game – the ball is passed backwards during play. However, in touch rugby you don’t tackle your opponent but rather touch the person running with the ball on any part of their body, clothing or the ball itself using your hand. Because touch rugby is less physical, women can also play without fear of injury.  Once touched, the player in possession of the ball is required to stop, return to the mark where the touch occurred and perform a ‘rollball’ without delay. Facing the defending try-line the player rolls the ball between his/her legs. After six touches the ball is handed over from the attacking team to the defending team and the game starts again from the halfway line in the centre of the field. The aim is to score a touchdown over the defending team’s try-line. Five to six players are on one team at a time, and a game lasts for about forty minutes per side.

Soccer

A game of soccer can be as simple as kicking the ball around with a few friends. Players dribble the ball on the ground, kicking it to pass to each other. For most games, there are eleven players per team – the goalkeeper is the only player allowed to use his/her hands. Teams are made up of defenders, midfielders and forwards. Two defenders patrol the left and right area while the two central defenders play in the middle. The midfielders play both defence and attack, and the forward positions focus on scoring the goals. The centre forwards play in the middle flanked on each side by a wing. In soccer be aware of the offside rule. If you are behind the other team’s defenders without the ball, you are offside. But if the ball is kicked past the defenders, you can pass them. Laduuuuuuuma!

Rounders

To play rounders you need a small ball (a tennis ball will do) and some kind of bat. There must be a minimum of six players per team. A match consists of two innings, giving each team a chance to bat and bowl. An innings is over when the last batter is caught out, and each person on the team gets a chance to bat. When bowling, the ball must not bounce and it must be above the batter’s knee, below the batter’s head, and not at the batter’s body. The batter hits the ball and then runs in a circle, passing a series of markers on the way. A ‘rounder’ is when the batter makes it all the way around the circuit in one hit of the ball. The team with the most rounders wins. A batter is out if the ball is caught before it hits the ground or if the ball is fielded before the batter reaches a marker. A batter who has missed the ball can run to the first marker and then continue to the next three when the next batsman strikes the ball. Only one person can stand at a base at a time.

Team ball sports are a great cardiovascular workout because they increase your heart rate. They are particularly good for people with diabetes because the body uses up extra glucose and decreases resistance to insulin. Muscle strength, endurance and eye-coordination also improve. Best of all? You lose weight while having a ball!

Ask the expert: Anette Thompson, Podiatrist shoes or barefoot?

SEMDSA, the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa, recently released 2012 guidelines which state that a person living with diabetes should not walk or run barefoot. There are a number of reasons for this – even well controlled, highly active people who have not developed any complications will experience a delay in healing if their skin punctures or cracks. Any break in the skin is a potential entry point for infection: bacterial, viral or fungal.

The goal is to wear footwear that most closely approaches the benefits of being barefoot. ‘Barefoot-like’ sports shoes allow maximum flexibility and give the feet the most natural workout. The benefits are improved blood flow to the feet and lower limbs, which feeds nerves and muscles during exercise. Ensure that the shoes are wide enough, as well as being the correct size. It’s a good idea to invest in good quality socks as well.

You only get one pair of feet – take good care of them.

Sport tips Sarah Hall, Biokeniticist

When playing outdoor sports, especially those you’re not used to, keep these tips in mind:

  • A sport specific warm up is essential. Try and focus on the muscle groups you’re about to use and make sure that you pay particular attention to those during your warm up. If you’re about to play soccer, try to loosen up the ankle joints with some ankle circle exercises. Stretch the groin muscles with some lunges and do a couple of lengths of sideways shuffle running along the field.
  • Wear supportive footgear to support your feet and cushion the rest of your body as you run.
  • Be as prepared as possible. Make sure you have enough water for the extended length of time of play. You must also keep some fast acting snacks handy as the game, although fun, may use up more energy than you think.

 

 

 

 

 

Stretch it out

Want to have a more flexible body and improve your circulation? Nicole McCreedy tells us why stretching should be part of everyone’s day.

When we’re young, it’s easy to imagine that our bodies will always do what they’re told. But as we age, our muscles tighten and all of a sudden something as easy as bending over to pick up your keys might be a struggle. Stretching is important because it keeps the body flexible and allows your joints to move through their full range of motion. Here’s all you need to know to keep flexible.

Why stretch?

For people with diabetes, improving circulation is essential for maintaining good health. Because stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, specifically the legs, it is great for circulation, but that’s not all. Regular stretching will increase nutrients to the muscles, improve your co-ordination, lengthen your muscles, reduce lower back pain, and even increase your energy levels.

How to stretch

While you can stretch anytime, anywhere – in your home or at work – you want to be sure to do it safely. Each stretch should be done in a slow and controlled manner till you feel ‘mild discomfort’. If it feels painful, you’ve stretched too far. Do not bounce or force the stretch.

Ideally, you should stretch before you start exercising. To avoid injury, first warm up your muscles. Run on the spot for a few minutes or do some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate. Stretch again at the end of your training sessions to help your muscles recover.

Types of stretching

What kind of stretching you choose to do will depend on your fitness and flexibility.

Static stretching is the most common form and is safe for beginners. Give this a try: to stretch the back of your upper thigh lie down on your back. Lift your right leg up in the air, heel facing the ceiling. Make sure that your lower back stays in contact with the floor and the left leg remains straight on the floor. Grip your raised leg with both hands. You may be comfortable holding your thigh, or you may be able to clasp your knee. Do what feels best for you. Keep your head and neck relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds or less. Change legs.

Passive stretching means you are using something outside yourself to help you stretch. Here’s a passive stretch to try: Relax the muscle you are trying to stretch and rely on a strap, gravity, another person, or your own body weight to stretch the muscle gently. Make sure you are well balanced before you start stretching!

Passive stretching is useful for those who have been injured or are frail. A recent study has found that passive stretching can help regulate blood glucose and is beneficial in treating people who are less physically able.

Dynamic stretching is moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly. Take shoulder circles for instance: stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lift your right shoulder towards your right ear, take it backwards, down and then up again to the ear in a smooth action. Repeat six to ten times. Do the same with the left shoulder. What you are doing is actively contracting the muscle in the opposition position to the one that you are stretching.

Love stretching and want to take it further? Try yoga or pilates – both involve active stretching. With yoga, the postures are timed with the breath and are designed to put pressure on the glandular system. In pilates, the sequence of movements focuses on strengthening your core muscles – the deep, internal muscles of the abdomen and back.

What to keep in mind while stretching – Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

Remember that – just like people – each muscle group and joint is individual.

  • Make sure that you warm up before you do any activity, and stretch afterwards as well. A quick rule of thumb is to stretch a muscle only if it is tight.
  • Do not stretch in such a way that you put another joint or muscle at risk of injury.
  • Try to isolate a muscle when stretching. If you are working the hamstring, do not put weight on that leg. Breathe into the stretch to allow the benefits of the stretch to move through that muscle.
  • Decide on a reason for stretching a particular muscle: is it to relax, release tightness or restore length to the muscle? Aim to stretch each muscle for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Ask the expert: Dr. Zaheer Bayat, Endocrinologist

Exercise is good for everybody. But for those with diabetes, there are added benefits:

  • Exercise lowers glucose levels as muscles require more glucose for fuel.
  • Exercise helps in losing weight, which in turn improves morale. Not only will you feel better, you will also look good.
  • Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. This can go a long way to stabilizing blood sugar levels

When starting any exercise program, it is important to spend a few minutes stretching, which will help lessen the risk of doing damage to yourself.

Ask the expert: Prof. Wayne Derman, Professor of Sports and Exercise Medicine

“Flexibility is an important part of fitness, so stretching should be included in any exercise programme. It’s also a great way to manage and prevent muscle cramps. Not sure what to do? Get a physio, biokineticist or trainer to assist you with the right stretches for the muscle groups in which you are particularly tight.”

10 fun ways to 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.

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…

But can it be fun? Here are 10 easy ways to sneak exercise into everyday life:

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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…

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!

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.

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!

Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

“It’s very important to set yourself a definite goal if you want to get fit. 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).”

Dance your way to better health

Who said exercise had to be at the gym? Here are some fun ways to get active without even noticing it.

The joy of dancing is that it’s good exercise, but so much fun that you won’t even notice you’re getting fit… Much better than trying to jog around the block! Dancing is, at heart, both art and sport. If you’ve been tempted to pull some moves like you’ve seen on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance, but haven’t managed to make the move from the couch to the dance floor, this is the year to do it!

Why dancing is good for you

What many people don’t realise is that dancing has a number of health benefits. Dance is a full mind and body workout that burns calories and lowers your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol. As with all kinds of exercise, dancing makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which means the insulin works better in your system. Because dancing is a weight-bearing activity, where the body works against gravity, it can also help strengthen bones, improve balance, posture and coordination. Dancing offers the opportunity to socialise and make friends, and moving your feet to a good tune can be a real pick-me-up. Apart from reducing stress, the biggest benefit of dancing is that it is fun (lots of fun!)

How to get involved

Whether you like to jive, tap, or tango, shake your belly or let yourself go to the beat, there’s a style of dancing that’s right for you. Different types of dance include ballroom, ballet, nia, afro-fusion, hip-hop and free dance, among others. The first step is to have a plan. Ask yourself what style of dance you think you might enjoy – do you like something more formal, or free? Then, consider how much time you can spare in your week, how fit you are and if you have any pre-existing injuries.

Once you know what you want, it’s time to find it! Check community noticeboards and local gyms to find out when and where classes or events are being held, and invite a friend to go with you if you feel too shy to go to the first class on your own. Convinced you have two left feet? Take lessons. Most dance studios hold beginners’ courses and welcome people with disabilities. Learning a new skill can be a real confidence booster and if you start now, you’ll definitely have new skills to show off at your end-of-year Christmas party!

What to wear

Wear comfortable clothing that gives you freedom of movement and shoes that fit the dance form. Some classes, like ballet, tap or jazz, might need special footwear depending on your level. Avoid wearing jewellery, as earrings, rings and necklaces can scratch you or get caught in clothing. Most importantly? Wear a smile.

How to warm up

Remember that because dancing isn’t the same movements that you do in daily life, you need to warm the body up and treat the dance hour like an exercise session, with a warm-up, movement preparation, dance, and cool down. Once you’ve done your warm-up and you understand the main demands of the type of dance you’re doing, you can let your body go and enjoy.

Ask the expert: Sarah Hall, Biokineticist

Here’s how to warm up for each of these dance styles:

Ballroom: A large focus of ballroom is technique and posture, so you need to ensure that in your warm-up you help lengthen your spine. The goal is to engage your neck, shoulder blades and core muscles, so that you reduce strain and tension from this form of dancing.

Nia: This dance is about moving with balance, without too much effort. It is a combination of yoga, modern dance, jazz and tai chi. A whole body warm-up with deep breathing would be best here.

Ballet: Although rhythmic and seemingly calm, ballet is one of the most demanding kinds of dance. Muscle endurance, power and strength, as well as flexibility of joints, are all required. Before starting ballet classes, it’s a good idea to try a few one-on-one classes or test out the poses so you know how far you can move.

Hip-Hop: This is an extremely physical but hugely enjoyable dance form. Hip-hop uses movements that require strength and balance to control your body weight. Body weight exercises that prepare the body for this challenge, like dips, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and squats, would be great to include in your warm-up. It’s also a good idea to strengthen and protect the spine because it’s such a high impact form of dance.

Free dance: Spontaneous and with no choreography, free dance has no rules and boundaries. So it’s important to combine the tips of all the types of dance above and ensure that you follow the structure from the warm-up to the cool down.

Ask the expert: Fiona Prins, Diabetes Educator

“Being active helps control blood sugar levels, so when you have diabetes it’s really important to exercise. As a rule, aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Regular physical activity will help keep your weight down, reduce blood pressure, raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) in the bloodstream. Other benefits of exercise include being able to sleep better and better health in general.”

Helping a friend through a diabetes diagnosis

“My friend was just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and weirdly the thing that’s bothering him most is what people will think. He doesn’t want to tell anyone because he says they’ll blame him for becoming diabetic – because he didn’t eat healthy or exercise enough. How can I help?” Shan Moyo

Dear Shan,

First of all, I think your friend is lucky to have someone like who cares enough for him to help him work through the barriers of accepting his diabetes. Because of all the studies that have shown that diet and lifestyle have an influence on Type 2 diabetes, uninformed people forget that there are numerous other reasons for developing diabetes as well. And the Type 1 and Type 2 labels also make people more judgemental.

To some people, their personal health problems and issues are exactly that: personal. Frankly, your friend doesn’t have to share with everybody that he has diabetes, but it is a good idea to let someone close to him know, in case of an emergency. One of the hardest things that newly diagnosed people with diabetes experience and fear is that those who have known you for years start treating you like you’re different. They see your diabetes and not you. But help him look at it this way: no one today would accuse someone with AIDS of giving themselves the condition. So why allow anyone to do it with diabetes?

What can you do? Be an active reader and read your friend like an open book. Listen more and talk less. Help him come to terms with his diabetes and find confidence in managing it. Don’t let him assume that others are judging him: nobody has any power over what other people prefer to think.

Finally, if your friend is really struggling with a lot of mixed emotions, remind him that it’s perfectly normal to feel that way, and that it’s okay to need some help with the burden of managing a demanding condition. And lastly, one of my favourite quotes by Lao Tzu for him: “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

Help him to live free and happy.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator

 

The daily sweat

Getting active every day can feel like a bit too much to ask for… Which is why Cindy Tilney’s asked the experts to give us easy ways to keep fit – no matter how old you are!

We all know exercise is good for us, but exercising to the max – especially in later life – can be too much of a good thing. It’s essential not to stress the body by exercising too hard, says Professor Wayne Derman, the Director of the U-Turn Chronic Disease Lifestyle Rehabilitation Programme based at the UCT Sports Science Institute of South Africa. “When planning an exercise routine, it’s important to consider any medical condition you might have, as well as any medication you’re taking and how it may affect you while exercising,” says Prof. Derman.

Older age also comes with a bigger chance of aches and pains because of problems like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – if these names ring a bell, it’s a good idea to be more careful about the kind of exercise you choose, and to consult a medical professional (a biokineticist, physiotherapist or sports physician) when planning an exercise routine. Be sure to check if any medications you are on will interfere with this routine, reminds Prof. Derman.

Be informed

“It’s essential to go for a health check and orthopaedic assessment before starting any exercise programme,” says biokineticist, Sarah Hall.

Get checked for:

  • Cardiac weakness
  • Any existing injuries
  • High blood pressure
  • Ischaemia (restriction in blood supply)
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Also be aware that falls are more likely if your balance isn’t what it used to be.

Warning signs:

The right kind of exercise has benefits for every chronic condition, says Prof. Derman.  But watch out for:

  • Feeling breathless to the point that you can’t talk when exercising
  • Any pain.

“The saying ‘no pain no gain’ is not true,” he says. “Your body should be in a state of relative comfort while exercising.”

So what should you do?

It’s important to include all of these steps in an optimal exercise programme, as they all have different functions, say Derman and Hall. These include:

  1. The warm up: This involves stretching and preparing your body for exercise.
  2. Flexibility training/stretching: This focuses on increasing the range of motion of the joints and stretching the body to release tension in the major muscle groups – calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, chest and arms.
  3. The aerobic phase: Involves movement of the large muscle groups to increase the heart rate. It can be walking, jogging, cycling, aqua aerobics or rowing, for example.
  4. Muscle strength resistance training: Using elastic bands or circuit training to make muscles stronger. This is particularly important for people with diabetes, as it can help the muscles involved in the absorption of insulin to become more sensitive, which helps blood sugar control.
  5. Stability training: Exercises like plank position that help balance and core stability.
  6. The cool down: This involves stretching and relaxation to allow the heart rate to go back to normal and the body to return to a resting state.

Remember: The goal is to exercise 20 to 30 minutes on most days of the week.

3 Top tips for people with diabetes:

  1. Don’t begin exercising if your blood sugar is either too high or too low (over 16 or below 4.8).
  2. If you are using insulin, always take something sweet with you when you exercise, in case of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
  3. Avoid injecting into large muscle groups just before exercising.

What kind of exercise is best for older people with diabetes?

We asked biokineticist Sarah Hall to give us a sample exercise routine. Here’s what she said:

Warm up: 5-10 minute brisk walk

Stretch: Standing calf and quad stretch, chest, shoulder and bicep stretch, lying down hamstring stretch and cat stretch for the back

Aerobic: Step for 2 minutes

Muscle strength: Like bicep curls, wall push-ups and abdominal crunches (sit-ups)

Aerobic: Walk or jog on the spot for 2 minutes

Stability: Plank position

Cool down: Repeat stretches