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  • Writer's pictureWayne Drury

Overcoming Mental Barriers to Exercise with Diabetes

 Photo Credit:  123RF

Living with diabetes means navigating physical challenges, as well as mental barriers that can hinder our move to exercise.  We have all heard exercise, exercise, exercise when living with diabetes.  A broken record that usually does not help, even though we all know that to live a better quality of life with diabetes, we should exercise.

Exercise not only can help keep our muscle mass; it can have a positive impact on lowering blood sugar levels.  For me, exercise is one of my strategies to keep my blood sugar low and not have to use medications.  

What We Hear

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise, and we should do that for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. Do the math. That is 30 minutes per day. My first reaction was, “Oops, I cannot say that here.”  A little later, it was, “Yea, I know exercise can help.”  A little later, I thought about my two choices.  

With most things, there is an A or a B.  No different with exercise.  A.  Exercise and capture the benefits.  B.  Continue not to exercise and suffer the consequences.

I chose A for one simple but very important reason.  A would increase my chances of living a much longer life and having a quality of life living with diabetes.  I have seen the consequences of friends selecting B.  Loss of toes, serious heart and kidney problems and the loss of an eye.  I decided I did not want to go down that road, and one of the best strategies was to begin to exercise.

How Did I Start?

I started slow.  Remember the race between the tortoise and the hare?  Who won that race?  

Not being a fan of walking around the block, I dusted off my stationary bicycle, attached my tablet to the handlebars and climbed on board.  I decided to go slow and easy and set the timer for 15 minutes.  

It was amazing how fast the time went by and how good it felt.  It was so good that I decided to hit another 15 minutes later in the day.   Without even thinking about it, I had 30 minutes.

What Can You Do?

Give exercise a try. It is as simple as that. Here are a few ways to overcome some of the barriers we all face.


Acknowledge Your Feelings – My feeling about exercise was “blah, I do not want to exercise.  Some suggest fear or anxiety.  For me was just a lack of interest.  I did not focus on my lack of interest; I focused on what exercise would do for me.  

Expectations – I did not focus on the 150 minutes per week.  I decided that 15 minutes was a good expectation for my start.  I did not talk to anyone about it. I just did it. Who needs all sorts of independent advice?  

Motivation—I would not call the mental exercise I went through as “motivation.”  I just did it.  I had decided that A was my path, and only by exercising would I be true to myself.

Choose What You Want to Do – For me, it was my stationary bike.  It was easy, and my 15 minutes would be over quickly.  For you, it may be walking the block, going to the gym or jumping in for a swim.  The operative words are, “choose what you want to do.” Not what others suggest you should do.

Hypoglycemia—Hypoglycemia is the lowering of blood sugar, which can be dangerous when living with diabetes. The trick is recognizing the potential risk and testing your blood sugar level before and after exercise. I have never had a problem, but that does not mean someone else will not.  Only by tracking blood sugar levels can anyone know for sure.

What Else?  - Some suggest keeping records of your exercise results and regularly doing yoga or other stress-releasing activities.  And the list can go on.  Do this, do that, which I push aside and do what I want to do.

The End

What you do with exercise is up to you.  A or B.  It is as simple as that.  I hope you pick A, as I personally now know how easy it is to exercise.  I see and feel the benefits to my body and my quality of life living with type 2 diabetes.

If you need help, contact us at Damndiabetes. We are here to help. Always remember to consult with your healthcare team for personalized guidance and support as you embark on your journey to a healthier, more active lifestyle with type 2 diabetes.

Best wishes ...

Vancouver, Canada

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