If you take medication to help control your diabetes, you’re very used to leaving your doctor’s office with a prescription. But have you thought about getting a prescription for exercise from your doctor as well?
It’s well-known that physical activity – along with proper nutrition and managing your blood sugar – is a cornerstone of diabetes management. While your healthcare team often consults with you about your diet and medication regimens during regular visits, discussions about physical activity don’t occur as frequently, and don’t often include the specifics of how much and what types of exercise are right for you.
The next time you visit your doctor, start a discussion about what types of physical activity you should undertake, how often you should exercise, and how long each session should be. By receiving a specific “prescription” for exercise, you’ll be more likely to follow it.
A number of studies support this theory.
- In 2003, Dr. Rob Petrella and his colleagues at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, enrolled 284 patients into a program, where they either received personalized exercise counselling and a prescription for exercise from their primary care physicians, or “usual care” provided by their physicians. In the group of participants who received specialized counselling, blood pressure decreased by 7.3% and body mass index decreased by 7.4%.
- In a pilot program conducted at four healthcare centres in California between 2010 and 2011, obese patients who received an exercise prescription from their physician lost weight. Patients with diabetes had improved blood glucose control and lower A1C levels.
- A study conducted in Arizona aimed to increase the number of steps that patients walked each day; doctors prescribed the numbers of steps patients should aim for, and the patients received a pedometer to record their steps. Those patients who followed their exercise prescription by increasing their physical activity to 3,000 steps per day showed a decrease in waist and hip circumference, and had lower blood glucose and A1C levels.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association clinical practice guidelines, people with diabetes should incorporate 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and 3 sessions of resistance exercise per week. For more information about aerobic and resistance exercises that you can try, click here.
The Diabetes Canada has a downloadable document that you can print and bring to your next healthcare appointment. Entitled “My Exercise Prescription,” it can help foster a discussion between you and your healthcare team about what type of exercise you should do, and how often you should do it. Click here for more information.
If you need further motivation, consider the positive things about being more active in the following list. Think about the two or three things that really matter to you, and focus on them to help keep you motivated, and to remind yourself why activity is important!
- It will make me feel better
- I will have more energy
- I will feel better about myself
- I will sleep better
- It will help me manage my weight
- It will make me healthier
- I will have fun
- It will help me manage stress
- I will be able to work without tiring
- It will give me more self-confidence
- I will feel stronger
- My blood glucose levels will improve
Getting – and staying – active is a challenge, there’s no doubt about it. But with support and encouragement from your healthcare team, you can make a difference in your physical activity levels. Follow your “prescription” for physical activity!