The Way You Move

by Helen Wilde

On at least two days a week I spend a day with my 3 very young grandchildren. They climb on the furniture, run and ride bikes around the yard, climb the apple or olive tree, swing on the old swing set our neighbours kindly gave us. They’ll happily spend time in makeshift cubbies or tents, painting, reading stories, cooking, playing with the cheap wooden trainset or the secondhand toy trucks, or the lego that was my children’s, watch a few minutes of children’s television if the weather is bad. Lately they’ve been asking to play ‘games from the olden days’, so we play, “What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?” and hide and seek, hopscotch, skipping, chalking on the driveway. No activity lasts very long before moving on to another one, and moving their whole body is part of everything they do. Everything they do is about enjoyment, learning, and being together. Movement is either incidental or just part of the pleasure.

As a teenager and younger adult I loved to dance, to swim, played competitive sport, and walked everywhere. Somehow the everydayness of simply and without thought constantly moving throughout my day that was part of being young has become for me instead something I have to consciously undertake, a task to fit into a still busy life. I am ‘an older Australian’.

Physical Activity Guidelines for older Australians

I have type 2 diabetes, am on oral medication, and I still produce my own insulin. But my body struggles to use the insulin effectively. I know that exercise can help to reduce my insulin resistance and so help my muscles to actually use the insulin my sputtering pancreas still makes. I know that insulin works more efficiently with Physical activity, and so my blood glucose control improves too.

I also know that for my Type 1 daughter, who injects insulin, it is easier for her body to make use of the insulin she pumps in when she follows a regular programme which includes exercise. It’s harder for her, and for Type 2’s and other PWD who are on insulin. Because she has type 1 diabetes, my daughter needs to manage her insulin doses, food intake and exercise to achieve the best possible balance to avoid low or high blood glucose during and following exercise.On the plus side, it’s likely that her body will become more efficient at using insulin, just like mine does with exercise, and so not need so much insulin.
See more on our exercise and diabetes pages

I know that Exercise is very important in my overall wellbeing and mental health. It can assist with management of depression, anxiety and stress. It also helps me to sleep better and using my body gives me an overall sense of peace. I said to my sister not long ago, ‘I think I was born into the body of a wandering nomad, I need to move constantly to feel good. Sitting at the computer all day makes me stiff, sore, and unable to move, as well as giving me a headache & eyeache.’ Sounds like a ‘win-win’ doesn’t it? So why is it so hard to follow this simple advice? “Just move, find something you enjoy doing, make exercise part of your everyday routine.”

Like a lot of people, I am very good at avoiding exercise and putting in barriers and excuses as to why I can’t exercise ‘right now’.

I think I have used all of the excuses:

It’s too hot
It’s too cold
It’s too dark
I’m too busy-I have way too much work to do!(I’m writing this blog, and I haven’t yet done my walk around the block)
I’m too tired
It’s not helping anyway
I have nobody to exercise with
I can’t afford it
I’m too sore; have a sore knee, arm, hand, leg, foot, toe, elbow,shoulder,back etc
I’m too embarrassed to get into bathers or exercise gear
I’m too fat

and for my daughter, add in:
It makes me hypo
I have to eat more to exercise so what is the point
I just hate exercise”

I know that all of these are genuine experiences, feelings and facts. I also know that on some days I can- and do- find ways to overcome them so I can exercise. But not all the time. I’m working on it.

I have done some research into the effectiveness of various types of exercise. There are Australian guidelines that are helpful. One of the more interesting Research items I have come across is by Michael Mosely, a British Scientist,below – see more 

“Hunter gatherers, when you observe them they do have short periods where they sprint, whether it is running away from something or it’s trying to capture something, they do have these moments where they go for it, although most of the time they are not doing that. It’s not long sustained running, it’s short bursts. And this is what they call high-intensity training or HIT. The way you want to do it is increased general activity, get off your bottom every 20 minutes or so, walk those stairs, increase the amount of time you walk, but intersperse that with short bursts of really quite intense stuff. So I get on the bike, I pedal like crazy for 20 seconds, breather, 20 seconds, breather, 20 seconds, and that’s it. And one of the programs, The Truth about Exercise,  you see me do that, extremely sceptical, I have to say, that it would have any difference, but actually the changes were quite profound in just four weeks.”

I have tried this ‘on-off’ kick to the metabolism while walking, and I do think that my bgl (blood glucose) control is better when I do it. So any physical activity that involves the whole body, improves metabolism and therefore uptake of insulin through a simple 3 x 20 seconds flat out ‘burst’ twice per week. Now the appeal of this is, that at 6 minutes per week of intense exercise I actually have a chance to keep up a regime. I have an old rowing machine, and find that this also works, as the whole body is involved. I haven’t yet tested water exercise, but I suspect it could work too. With summer almost here, that’s my next project.

Of course this needs to be run past your doctor, especially if you have heart problems or stroke risk. It also may be of interest to ask your GP about seeing an exercise physiologist, who knows about diabetes, who can work with you on a plan tailored to your situation. That way an appropriate exercise plan can be fitted into your GP Health Care Plan.

‘The way you move’   has an impact on diabetes control, and without even considering all of the other profound benefits, that’s enough reason to remember, you are worth it, you deserve it, and to find the exercise pattern that you can sustain.

Now my weekly blog is done, I’m off for a walk around the block- 20 seconds at a time. I might even dance a little to Lucinda Williams!
Helen Wilde

Helen was a long term Senior Counsellor with Diabetes Counselling Online & Teacher. She is mother of a type 1 diabetic since 1979 and a type 2 diabetic herself for many years.