Walking is probably one of the most underrated exercises there is. It is not cool, trendy or new. It is however very effective in helping to get our type 2 diabetes under control. For many of us, being diagnosed with diabetes usually means we have to do things differently than we did before. It involves changing our lifestyle. Change can be hard. I know it was for me. Others around us have no idea just how much change, then the self-discipline to sustain that change, is needed in order to deal with diabetes. It will involve developing new habits. For many of us, it involved putting ourselves first. Not the family, not the job. Ourselves. Oh I’m not saying we forget about the family or job but it’s important to refocus. On ourselves. The best way I can explain this is to imagine your family portrait. When I visualize mine, I see my husband, my kids, my parents. Everyone in that picture in my mind is important. Then I have to ask myself, “am I in that picture?” If I’m not, then this is where the change, the refocus comes in. I’m important too. I need to see myself in the family portrait in order to make sure I’m putting myself and my diabetes first, not just everyone else. My diabetes diagnosis involved changes that included some exercise (oh yuck!) and weight loss.
For some of us ‘exercise’ was not a word in our vocabulary. I have never liked the word. I still don’t. My hands immediately go up and over my ears. I’m not athletic. In fact, I’m really very clumsy. I don’t want to go to a gym and show all the athletic people just how NOT athletic I am. It took me a while and a few wasted memberships to figure out I didn’t need a gym to exercise. For many, a gym membership is exactly what they need. For me the answer was walking.
The advantages of walking
Recall I mentioned putting myself first? As I reflect back, I had to develop a new plan with my family. I needed their support and understanding. I needed to walk after I ate dinner in order to help drive down those high blood sugars. I had to ensure I had the time and ability to do this no matter what. Traditionally, I’d clean up the kitchen after dinner. Now someone else had to do it so I could go for my walk. They got onboard with very little complaining. Yay!
Walking after dinner also raised some other issues though too. I live in Canada and like many places in the USA, our weather is pretty variable and can be unpredictable. It can be cold and dry. It can involve snow and sleet, freezing rain. It can involve hot temperatures along with stifling humidity. It takes a lot of courage to begin a new lifestyle and to walk in that nonsense. It also takes some common sense. Walking alone at night, not an option. Walking in freezing rain, not an option. In large cities, malls can offer a safe alternative to walking outdoors. You can do that year round no matter what the weather is. One mall in the city where I work opens their doors early in the morning for those who want to walk before the stores open. What a great idea! Where I live though, we have no mall. What was another option? Home Depot. Yes. That’s what I said. These big warehouse stores have a lot of floor space. My husband and I would walk around the store pretending, if you will, that we are looking to renovate. Sometimes we really were. I have to say though, if we were there a couple nights in a row and the same staff was on, we got some weird looks. Believe me when I say, that took courage! My husband’s response was,”What are they going to do? Throw us out?” Well, ya…but they never did. Whew!
I put myself first at work too. I used to skip lunch and coffee breaks. I was ‘too busy’. I learned early on that a walk after any meal drives down those high blood sugar numbers. I took a risk and told my boss when I was diagnosed that I was dealing with type 2 diabetes. She had been after our whole team to do more self-care but most of us found a reason to ignore that sound advice. I no longer ignored it. I ate my lunch, then put on my running shoes (or snow boots), put on my headphones and away I went. My walks weren’t long. I only walked for whatever time was left of my lunch break after eating my lunch. A little went a long way.
Over time I discovered that there were many more things I liked about walking that I didn’t realize at the time. If I needed some alone time, a walk could be good. If I needed to de-stress, a walk on my lunch hour or break helped a lot. If I wanted company, I’d invite someone to go with me. Walking is free. Walking doesn’t take any special equipment. Walking supports heart health. Walking drives down my blood sugars. And the final bonus….(drumroll please!)…..I lost weight.
Walking may not be cool, trendy or new but it sure serves a great purpose when we need it to.