I thought about “risk” the other evening when I needed to roll my garbage containers from the garage to the street after an ice storm. In the health business we talk about risk a lot, especially with diabetes – what increases your risk for “this” and what can reduce your risk for “that.” But, the concept of risks and benefits can be fuzzy. The timeline is often long term, and the risks can be hard to visualize. Exercise is a good example. The benefits of exercise to diabetes health over the long run are significant, but many people find it difficult to prioritize the time and effort. The risk of not exercising is hard to pinpoint.
But, let’s forget diabetes for a minute, and think about our age. Type 2 diabetes is still more likely associated with “middle” age, and if you’re middle aged (like me) or older the risk associated with an icy driveway isn’t fuzzy at all. You probably know people with assorted pins and plates and screws securing bones that were broken in a fall. For those older than 65, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, accounting for more than 700,000 hospitalizations in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention. An icy driveway presents a risk that’s easy to visualize.
Guess what can reduce your risk of falling this winter, and reduce your risk for breaking a bone (or two or three) if you do go down on ice or snow? How about regular exercise! Regular exercise improves strength and balance, helping you avoid falls, and weight bearing exercises improves bone density, making breaks less likely.
If you’ve been unable to motivate yourself to exercise strictly to reduce the long term health risks associated with diabetes, try visualizing yourself in a balance contest with an icy driveway (or, for our friends in warmer climates, a wet floor, your stealthy cat, or any other potential tripping hazard). Yes, there are tremendous advantages to glucose metabolism and heart health from regular physical activity, but there are some immediate advantages that could save you from a month in traction too.