walking

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.

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.

Exercise is medicine

It’s more than just good for you. Nicole McCreedy tells us why.

Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, your doctor is likely to recommend a combination of diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication to help control your blood sugar levels. Many studies have shown that adopting a healthy lifestyle is effective in treating diabetes.

Being newly diagnosed with diabetes can be overwhelming at first. For some, doctor’s orders to exercise regularly may feel like a big obstacle to overcome on this new journey. But don’t stress if you’re someone who can’t recall the last time the word exercise passed your lips: even small steps in the right direction count.

The decision to exercise is the first step to better health. “Exercise is literally the best medicine,” according to biokineticist, Sarah Hall. “This is not saying you can stop taking what the doctor has prescribed,” she advises, “but exercise will generally improve your health, decrease your stress levels, help with weight loss and improve your wellbeing.”

No matter what your medical condition, there is usually some form of exercise that you can do. Make an effort to find an activity that you like, and are able to perform at your current level of health and fitness. This will make it a much easier habit to keep.

Diabetes educator, Kate Bristow, has put together a list of five activities suitable for people with diabetes you can consider trying out:

Walking briskly for thirty minutes, five days a week is the global recommendation for all adults – with or without diabetes. For exercise “newbies”, you can break this up into shorter sessions throughout the day. In fact, a recent study from New Zealand found that taking a ten-minute stroll immediately after a meal may be better for lowering blood sugar levels than a full half hour session once a day.

Cycle for 15 to 30 minutes three times per week. Maintain your heart rate at no more than 65 to 75% of your max, which is a great way to increase your blood circulation and the demands on your body gently. Depending on where you live, consider using a bicycle to commute to work or to nearby places you need to visit. Not only is it a good way to increase your daily level of activity; it can also make the trip more interesting.

Low intensity whole body weight training helps the body to absorb sugar (glucose) into the muscles. As a result, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin and this can lower blood sugar levels. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn – even when your body is at rest. Preventing muscle loss with weight or strength training is also the key to maintaining an independent lifestyle as you age. Get help from a qualified professional who can supervise you while performing the exercises. To start, your weight training programme may include two to three sets of 15 repetitions (reps) for each muscle group twice a week.

Tai Chi or Beginner Yoga are both forms of exercise that allow for gentle movements, through breathing and controlled contraction of the muscles of the entire body. It is best, when first learning either of these disciplines, to join a class so that you learn the correct, safe techniques. A beginner class is approximately 45 minutes. Let the instructor know if you are new to the class, so that they know to help you with the postures. 

Swimming allows once again for the whole body to be involved, with movement performed in a supportive environment.  As long as you take regular breathing and rest breaks, you will see rewarding results.

Tips from biokineticist Sarah Hall:

  • Don’t begin something that you cannot commit to – financially or time-wise.
  • Exercise, to be beneficial, needs to be regular and sustained.
  • Any little bit of regular exercise is better than none at all.
  • Start slowly and build it up – there is no point in hurting yourself in the first session.
  • When you begin an exercise programme, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor – especially those with health risk and those who are a bit older.
  • Exercise can lower your blood sugar levels and the effects can last up to two days after, therefore it is important to test regularly especially before and up to four hours after exercise and understand the effect exercise has on your own levels.
  • Know how to manage a low sugar level if it happens.
  • Set realistic, clear and concise goals.

No matter what kind of exercise you choose, your body will thank you!

A walk in the park

Do you want to know how to lose weight, feel better and control your blood glucose levels the easy way? Take a walk!

If your doctor keeps telling you to get active but you’re not sure what kind of exercise to do, why not take a walk? Walking is the one of the easiest ways to get fit because you need very little preparation – we all already know how to do it! Studies have shown that people with Type 2 diabetes who walk daily are able to store sugar and burn fat more effectively. The result: better glucose control and weight loss.

That’s not all. Because walking is relaxing it lowers your blood pressure. This decreases your risk of heart disease. At the same time fitness, lung capacity, stamina and mental alertness all improve.

Still not convinced? It can even make you happier―walking is an excellent way to naturally boost your mood.

Beginners

Because you don’t need special equipment, walking is ideal for beginners. A pair of well-fitting trainers will do the job. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking daily as part of a healthy lifestyle programme to manage diabetes. However, every journey begins with a single step. Start slowly with 5 or 10 minutes per day and try to add 5 to 10 minutes to your programme weekly.

What is the best technique? Watch your posture. Walk tall. Back straight. Look ahead and keep your chin parallel to the ground. Shoulders should be relaxed. Gently tighten your stomach muscles and tuck your pelvis in to bring it in line with your upper body. Feet must make contact with the ground heal first and then push off with the toes.

Need extra motivation? Use a pedometer, a small device that clips onto your waistband, to track the total steps you take during the day. With your pedometer at hand, find ways to activate your day as much as possible: walk the dog, window shop, use the stairs or walk to visit a neighbour. The end goal is 10,000 steps a day, but anything over 5,000 is a good start!

Advanced/Adventure

Want a challenge? Head off-road: go trail walking or hiking. Keep these points in mind when you’re going for an adventure walk:

Be wise. Hike in a group and choose your route according to the least fit person in your group’s abilities. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.

Be prepared. Hiking requires planning. Pack enough water for the trip to ensure that you are properly hydrated and take something sweet in case your blood sugar goes low. Avoid blisters and don’t hike wearing new shoes. Protect yourself from the sun: wear a hat and sunscreen.

Be aware of your surroundings. Check the weather forecast, be familiar with the route and carry a map.

Get moving

Walking is the most recommended and popular form of exercise. It is plain to see why. It can be fun, relaxing and a great way to spend time with people. You can do it practically anywhere and it is a good excuse to visit new places. Best of all anyone can do it and it is really good for your health. Start today― take a few steps in the right direction.

Ask the expert: Diabetic tips for walking
Dr. Zaheer Bayat, Endocrinologist

It is important to balance enthusiasm and common sense when beginning an exercise program.

  • Have a pre-exercise examination by your GP. This may include a stress test for patients over the age of 35 or have had diabetes for more than 10 years.
  • Discuss with your doctor whether or not your insulin dosage needs to be adjusted.
  • Choose an insulin injection site away from exercising muscles.
  • Eat a snack approximately 15 to 30 minutes before exercise, and again every 30 minutes during exercise. Choose a snack that’s a slowly absorbed carbohydrate.
  • Drink enough liquids before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration, which can upset blood sugar levels.
  • Test your blood sugar before, during, and after exercise to figure out your body’s typical response to exercise.
  • Be sure to keep some juice or sweets on hand in case your blood sugar goes low.

Ask the expert: foot care
Anette Thompson, Podiatrist

  • Go for a check-up with your podiatrist so that you know the status of your foot health.
  • Blisters, hot spots, breaks in the skin or blood flow problems to the feet may go undetected; foot numbness could also be present without your being aware of it. These need to be treated.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes that fit comfortably with at least 15mm length ahead of the longest toe and don’t rub at the heel. Try on new shoes, with socks, in the afternoon when your feet are at their biggest volume.
  • Invest in good socks. Diabetic socks are made so that they don’t cut off circulation around the ankle.
  • Check your feet after each walking session for cuts, blisters, hot red spots or abrasions.