What If We Focused on Exercise Instead?

There are three legs to the stool that is managing life with type 2 diabetes: medicine, diet, and exercise.


Every book I’ve ever read about managing type 2 diabetes starts with what you should and shouldn’t eat. Most diabetes websites have sizable collections of “diabetes-friendly” recipes—whatever that means. The first referral I received after my diagnosis was to a dietician.

Food. It’s a $5.75 trillion industry that is being sold to us everywhere and all the time.

Food. It’s wrapped with emotion and memory and meaning.

Food. You need it to live. And being told you can’t have it can unleash a torrent of fear and anger and emotion.

Add to this the pressure of managing blood glucose levels at every meal, and successfully changing eating habits becomes even more difficult.

At some point you hit a wall where you feel that you’ve gotten all the benefits you can out of diet and it’s time to try something else.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you ignore medically-based dietary restrictions or eat anything and everything with wild abandon. I’m suggesting making a shift. Shift your focus. Shift what you emphasize in your daily self-care. Shift some of your strategies for managing life with diabetes.

What if we focused on moving our bodies first?

What if the first thing we did in the day was put on some sneakers and go for a walk? Or dance around our living rooms to a salsa beat? Or climb up and down the stairs in our building?

What if the first thing we did to take care of ourselves was get up and move our bodies?

The benefits are legend

The benefits of exercise are legend.

Exercise energizes. It lifts mood and releases endorphins. Movement reduces stress and relieves tension.

Over time exercise builds strength and endurance. It can tone your body and build flexibility. It can strengthen bones and help relieve pain. Exercise can affect appetite.

Exercise and movement also help in ways that you don’t necessarily see or feel. They improve how your body functions, including your heart rate, circulation, metabolism, and digestion. And, yes, exercise and movement can improve how your body handles blood glucose.

No gym membership required

Exercise is one of those things that you define for yourself. You don’t have to do a specific activity or sport. You don’t have to join a team or a group.

You get to decide what kind of movement and activity you want to do. You decide when, and where, and for how long.

You can do it on the cheap or spend a lot.

You can set a goal like going from the couch to a 5K, or not.

And if you find out you don’t like the activity you chose, guess what? You don’t have to keep doing it. You can try something else.

The choice is yours.

There is one requirement

At first, the thing that matters most is that you just get up and move. Do it. Whatever you decide “it” is. Get up and go. Move your body. Stretch and flex your muscles. Breath deeply. Get from point A to point B, however you define that path to be.

But to reap the benefits of exercise there is one requirement.

To feel the mood boost and release that stress. To feel the flexibility and build strength and stamina. There is one thing you have to do—without fail.

And that is: you have to exercise more than once.

While dessert may be a once in a while treat, movement and exercise should be an everyday activity.

To reap the physical and psychological benefits you have to make it a daily habit. What that habit looks like is up to you. When and where and how long you do it, that's all up to you. You just have to do something every single day.

The choice is yours

What are you going to do today to start building that daily exercise habit?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

How confident are you that you know all the ways you can spend health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) funds?