A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is a diagnosis for life. Prescribed medication and daily insulin injections will become a life-long necessity, but this does not mean that you have no control over your condition or that there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation. By switching your focus away from what you may see as "restrictions" in your diet and placing it on eating a diet of healthful foods instead, you not only give your body a nutritional helping hand, you also discover just how varied and delicious a nutritious diet can be.
A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, may still be a diagnosis for life but it does not need to be a life of daily medications. Many people with type 2 diabetes are now controlling their symptoms successfully through eating a healthful diet of foods that help them to lower and regulate their blood glucose levels with reduced levels of medication. In many cases, type 2 diabetes symptoms can be completely reversed and the need for medication completely eliminated, and individuals diagnosed with pre-diabetes can not only prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, they can rid themselves of their pre-diabetic status by making positive diet and lifestyle changes.
Depending on your individual circumstances, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your blood glucose levels. However, this can also be achieved through making changes to your diet. The main considerations are ...
... Paying attention to the types of food you eat.
... Paying attention to the amount you eat in terms of portion size.
... And paying attention to when you eat in terms of meal times and frequency.
As glucose is sourced in foods containing carbohydrates, the quantity of sugary and starchy foods consumed must be carefully managed at meal times. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that carbohydrates should be cut from your diet completely. It simply means that steps must be taken to balance out the blood glucose elevating effects of eating such foods with the addition of other foods at mealtimes and taking part in a program of exercise designed to help lower blood glucose levels.
Regular blood glucose monitoring at home and through your doctor makes it possible to identify the foods that lead to the biggest elevations in your blood glucose levels, or "sugar spikes", after eating. Knowing which foods are most harmful to your health and understanding why they are harmful is a powerful motivator for change.
In a nutshell, the foods that will have the most dramatic effect on your blood glucose levels are those with a high glycemic index (GI). The GI is an indicator of how quickly a food will raise your blood glucose levels after consumption, so foods with a high GI have a much faster effect on your body than foods with a low or moderate GI.
Every food has a GI ranking, but a few examples of high and low GI foods are listed below.
High GI foods include:
White bread and other starchy foods made with white flour.
Breakfast cereals such as Rice Krispies, Cornflakes, Cheerios etc.
Potatoes and potato products such as potato chips, French fries etc.
Sugary foods such as cakes, cookies, donuts and candies.
Low GI foods include:
Fruits and vegetables (although some have a moderate GI).
Whole meal bread.
Whole meal pasta.
Scientific research has confirmed a link between eating a diet of high GI foods and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating the occasional high GI meal is unlikely to cause any long-term problems but eating high GI meals on a regular basis increases the potential to develop pre-diabetes and lead into the health concerns associated with type 2 diabetes.The foods included in a healthful diet to beat diabetes are generally low GI foods but by combining high and moderate GI foods with low GI foods, the overall GI of a nutritious meal can be lowered.
The term "super-food" is used to describe a food that’s particularly nutritious and high in health-boosting vitamins and minerals. The majority of fruits and vegetables are super-foods, and with most varieties having a low GI, they are of great to benefit to diabetics.
The following everyday foods are great examples of super-foods that can be included in a diabetic diet plan.
Almonds are high in fiber which helps to slow down the digestion process, and because they are high in healthy fat and protein, they are a useful way to help with portion control as a small amount leaves you feeling satisfied and feeling fuller for longer. Almonds are a low GI food and studies have shown that adding almonds to a meal can help to lower the GI of the other foods on your plate.
Apples are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C in particular, and they are a low GI food. Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals which help to protect your body from the potentially damaging effects of free radicals: chemicals produced by your body as part of its natural defense against bacteria: and vitamin C gives your immune system a healthy boost.
Bananas are packed with antioxidants and provide a rich source of potassium which is known to help lower blood pressure.
Beans are also a rich source of antioxidants along with providing protein and dietary fiber. In fact, black beans, red beans and kidney beans all feature in the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) top 10 list of the world’s richest sources of antioxidants, and studies have found that beta-glucans in beans can help to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, therefore reducing the impact on blood glucose levels after eating. This means that beans can also help to lower the overall GI of your meal when eaten with other foods.
Blueberries are jam-packed with antioxidants and studies have shown that blueberry consumption can help to lower blood glucose levels. The good news is that frozen berries are just as beneficial to your health when fresh berries are out of season.
Coconut and Coconut Oil On-going research suggests that the properties of coconut and coconut oil may help to reverse diabetes. Naturopath Dr. Bruce Fife believes that a daily serving of three or four tablespoons spread over several meals or snacks can promote big health improvements in those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Ginger Ginger is known to contain many anti-inflammatory properties and on-going studies are now looking into its potential to be effective in lowering blood glucose levels.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables should be the "main event" in a diabetic meal plan as all varieties are high in health-boosting antioxidants. In a research study, broccoli was found to contain an antioxidant which can actually reverse artery damage caused by high blood glucose levels, and spinach is also known to contain properties which help combat diabetes.
Below are just a few examples of the "super-nutrient" content of common green leafy vegetables and flavorsome herbs.
Cabbage ─ a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and a good source of vitamin E, potassium and beta-carotene. Vitamin K is essential in the formation of many proteins.
Broccoli ─ another rich source of vitamin C. Broccoli also contains beta-carotene, iron and potassium, and is high in bioflavonoids and other antioxidants.
Spinach ─ a rich source of carotenoids, including beta-carotene and lutein, which are powerful antioxidants. Also contains vitamin C and potassium.
Collard Greens ─ a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Kale ─ a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Watercress ─ contains vitamin C, beta-carotene and iron, and is also 91 percent water, making it a useful way to boost hydration levels.
Parsley ─ one cup of parsley contains 2 grams of protein. It is also rich in calcium and provides iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Dill: contains calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.
Sorrel ─ provides iron, magnesium and calcium.
Basil ─ provides beta-carotene, iron, potassium, copper, manganese and magnesium.
Coriander ─ provides a mild, peppery flavor along with anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin C, iron and magnesium.
Green fruits and vegetables contain chlorophyll which has been shown to stimulate the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in red blood cells. In simple terms, this means that your body is better able to take in oxygen and utilize it.
Studies in Japan have concluded that green tea can help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. It’s high in antioxidants and catechins which have been shown to provide protection against chronic diseases such as cancer.
Natural (raw) honey is known to lower blood glucose levels when used as a sugar substitute. It also contains many other health-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Nuts provide a healthy source of protein and fat when eaten in moderation. In a study carried out at Harvard University, it was discovered that women who ate a daily portion of nuts (around one handful) had a 27 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who did not eat nuts, or only occasionally ate nuts. Top nut choices for diabetics include almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans and other varieties of tree nut.
The omega-3 essential fatty acid content of oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, and sardines makes all varieties a healthy addition to any diet. Your body is able to manufacture its own supply of fat by storing any excess protein and carbohydrate consumed in your diet but it is unable to manufacture certain essential unsaturated fats, and this means that your body’s own supply comes from the foods you eat. These essential oils are omega-3 and omega-6 oils. Omega-3 is sourced in oily fish, green leafy vegetables, and a few vegetable oils, and omega-6 is sourced in the majority of vegetable oils. Omega-3 oils are known to reduce inflammation in your body and can lower the risk of developing heart disease as well as alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and asthma. Omega-6 oils also have health benefits but high levels of omega-6 in your diet can lead to an inflammatory response in your body, so the key to maximizing the benefits of essential fatty acids in your diet is to create a healthy omega-3 and omega-6 balance. The optimum ratio of 2:1 in your overall diet brings the best results in terms of boosting your health and wellbeing.
Both white and red wine vinegar have been shown to help lower blood glucose levels. Using lemon or lime juice as a vinegar substitute has also been shown to have the same positive effect.
Yogurt is a healthy source of protein and it has also been proven to help lower blood glucose levels and cut belly fat when consumed as part of a calorie controlled diet. However, not all yogurts are the same. Most commercial brands contain large quantities of added sugar, making them unsuitable for diabetics, so choose plain, organic brands with no added sugar and add fresh fruits or honey in moderation to sweeten it to your taste.
The GI and BMI Connection
BMI is an abbreviation of Body Mass Index. Your BMI is a measurement that can be used to assess whether your weight is appropriate for your height, and therefore whether you may be unhealthily underweight or overweight. It is now known that there is a connection between high blood glucose levels and body shape, with individuals who store excessive body fat around their waist being most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The classic "apple shape" created by stored abdominal fat is an indicator of a related condition known as Syndrome X or Insulin Resistance Syndrome. The symptoms of Syndrome X are very similar to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes symptoms and the tell-tale body shape is known to be caused by eating a diet high in sugar and refined (processed) carbohydrates, in other words, a diet of high GI foods.
The chart below is an example of the type of chart used by health professionals to measure an individual’s BMI.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), 25 percent of the U.S. population currently has Syndrome X, placing them at a much greater risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and as many as 85 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes also have Syndrome X. Measuring your BMI using a chart, or putting your height and weight into one of the many free online BMI calculators, is a quick and easy way to gauge your own potential risk but it’s always advisable to speak to your doctor about your concerns. The NHLBI recommend that women should seek medical advice if they have a waist measurement of between 35 and 40 inches, or more than 40 inches for men.
Evidence suggests that individuals who eat a diet of mainly low GI meals have smaller waistline measurements on average compared to individuals who eat a diet of mainly high GI meals.
Step 1: Lower Your Blood Glucose Levels
The goal of this step is to reduce your blood glucose levels to 100 (this will be a fasting blood glucose measurement taken by your doctor). To lower your blood glucose you must cut your carbohydrate consumption, and this will undoubtedly involve cutting some of your favorite foods from your daily diet. However, this is just the first step in your journey toward a healthier and potentially diabetes-free life and you will be able to reintroduce many of these "forbidden" foods as you progress to step 2. The length of time it will take to successfully lower your blood glucose levels is going to depend on your starting point and your individual circumstances, but you should expect this step to take up to four weeks.
Foods You Must Cut From Your Diet
The idea of cutting foods from your diet is not an appealing one, but it must be remembered that this is not forever. Adopt an attitude of discovering new foods and flavors over the next few weeks rather than focusing on the foods you are cutting out.
Fats and Starchy Carbohydrates:
Wheat products (bread, pasta, cereals)
Bread crumbs and croutons
Dairy products (milk, yogurt)
Beans / Legumes (except black soy beans and red kidney beans)
Fruits (sugary carbohydrates):
Dried fruits of any variety Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs):
AGEs refer to the way a food is heated or processed. Certain cooking or preparation processes can have a negative effect on the sugar properties in a food and render them unsuitable for individuals with high blood glucose levels. Common examples include:
Oven-roasted, fried or broiled meat and poultry
Regular cold cuts
Frozen meals (cooked/microwaved at a high heat)
Frozen breakfast foods
Full fat dairy products
Cakes and donuts
Some AGE foods can be reintroduced into your diet as you progress to step 2, but these are foods that must always be consumed in moderation and considered occasional treats rather than daily staples.
Recent studies have revealed that drinking sodas, including "diet" sodas, on a daily basis increases an individual’s risk of developing high glucose levels along with a high waist measurement by 36 percent. This leads to a 67 percent greater risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes compared to non-soda drinking individuals.
Foods You Can Eat
In step 1, your aim is to reduce your carbohydrate consumption to 20 grams per day. This means cutting starchy and sugary sources of carbohydrate from your daily diet and sourcing your carbohydrates from vegetables instead.
Green leafy varieties are always good choices but you can add any variety you like to keep things interesting. For example, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, avocado, cauliflower, carrots, or pickles (no added sugar) to name just a few.
If you have a craving for sweet foods, some fruits can be included. But, keep in mind that many fruits contain high levels of natural sugars, so limit your choices to cranberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
Healthy sources of protein include lean pork and beef, ideally from grass-fed animals, and free-range poultry. Other useful sources include organic eggs, cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel, tofu, black soy beans, and red kidney beans. Protein portions, especially meats, should be no bigger than the size of your palm.
Healthy oils can be used as dressings on raw or steamed vegetables. Good choices include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, and walnut oil.
Commercial sauces and condiments are generally high in sugar and salt and should therefore be avoided. However, the above foods can be flavored using "healthier" options in moderation. Good examples include low calorie salad dressings, unsweetened dill pickles, unsweetened vinegar, horseradish, mustard, ketchup, or taco sauce. Calorie free sugar substitutes can also be used to add sweetness.
Caffeine raises blood glucose levels but regular tea or coffee can be enjoyed in moderation. Herbal teas or green tea provide useful substitutes. Broth drinks and diet soft drinks are also acceptable but water is always the best choice for maintaining hydration levels.
The above foods provide you with ample ingredients to create healthy, delicious and blood glucose lowering meals without the need to feel restricted. Raw vegetables can be enjoyed as snacks at any time and steamed vegetables should form the bulk of main meals.
Meals ideas to tickle your taste-buds include:
Omelets: with the use of fresh herbs, you can whip up a nutritious omelet in minutes. How about tomato and basil, red pepper and onion, or chili flavors?
Hot Salads: tossing up a fresh salad drizzled with olive oil and serving with slices of steamed salmon makes a nutritious meal for any time of day.
Vegetable or Meat Chili: a chili with beans makes a hearty evening meal that’s sure to satisfy any appetite.
Beef Stew: a tasty stew served with a selection of steamed vegetables is not onlya satisfying meal, it’s a meal that makes it very easy to forget that you are on a "diet"!
Never Go Hungry!
With so many low-carb options on offer, eating no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate per day should not feel like a "starvation" diet. In all three steps, and beyond this diet plan, it’s extremely important to eat regularly and to leave no more than three or four hours between snacks or meals during the day. Longer gaps will not only disrupt your blood glucose levels, they will potentially lead you into overeating or making poor food choices when you do eat as a result of feeling "starved." Eating little and often (small meals at frequent, regular intervals) is much more effective in terms of stabilizing your blood glucose than eating a big meal and leaving it to the point of feeling hungry before eating again.
Step 1 Key Points
Goal = to lower fasting blood glucose to 100
Target = to restrict carbohydrate intake to no more than 20 grams per day
Duration = up to four weeks
Step 2: Eat Your Way to Good Health
The goal of this step is to gradually re-introduce healthful carbohydrates to your daily diet. You will begin by increasing your daily carbohydrate intake from 20 grams to 40 grams, but the aim is to maintain a blood glucose level of 100 or lower (no lower than 80).
Foods You Can Re-introduce
The most important element of this step is to re-introduce carbohydrates gradually. Eating every food you cut from your diet in step 1 straight away is guaranteed to send your blood glucose levels through the roof and defeat the object. The re-introduction process should be spread over a minimum of two weeks and could take up to four months depending on how your body responds to the additional carbohydrate in your diet.
The first foods to re-introduce are the following:
Fruits and vegetables (begin to eat the varieties you cut from your diet in step 1)
Low fat dairy (for example, unsweetened yogurt or low fat cheese)
Whole grains (breads, pasta, cereals etc.)
This step is a trial and error process that will help you to make the connection between the foods you eat and the way they affect your body. By bringing carbohydrates back in to your diet gradually, you can assess the impact each one has on your blood glucose levels and make informed choices as a result. Foods which make you feel bloated or tired after eating do not represent good choices for you, but by choosing low GI foods and mixing them with higher GI foods at mealtimes, you can enjoy a varied diet and keep your blood glucose levels stable at the same time.
When you are able to maintain a blood glucose level of 100 or lower with a daily intake of 40 grams of carbohydrates, you can then gradually begin to increase your daily intake to 60 grams. You will now be aware of the foods which are likely to cause an unwanted "sugar spike" so you can increase your carbohydrate intake by eating more of the foods your body is able to manage. However, it’s important not to choose starchy or sugary carbohydrates over the carbohydrates sourced in green leafy vegetables. The vegetables you ate in step 1 should still be the "main event" on your plate along with palm-sized portions of meat or fish, and foods such as pasta or potatoes should be considered a side dish.
Raw foods and foods cooked using low heat still represent the best options for those aiming to lower and stabilize their blood glucose levels. This makes steaming one of the best cooking methods for both vegetables and meats, so buying a steamer and some cook books designed around its use will be a very worthwhile investment. Steamed foods are not as boring and bland as you might think, you can even cook up delicious "stir fries" without the need for high heat. Slow cookers also make it possible to enjoy wholesome foods cooked at low heats, and learning how to cook using these methods is an important step towards living without diabetes for life.
However, this does not mean that you can never again enjoy the flavor of barbecued foods. Having the occasional barbecue is not an issue, just be mindful of AEGs and make it your choice to limit your consumption of foods cooked at high heats in favor of eating healthful foods that will give your body the nutrition it needs to combat diabetes.
Step 2 Key Points
Goal = to gradually re-introduce carbohydrates into your diet
Target = to increase carbohydrate intake to 40 grams and then 60 grams daily
Duration = up to four months
Step 3: Maintain Healthy Blood Glucose Levels for Life
This step is all about eating healthily for the rest of your life; preventing pre-diabetes from progressing to diabetes, reducing the amount of medication you need for type 2 diabetes, and never feeling like you’re on any kind of "special" or restrictive diet ever again.
Steps 1 and 2 have opened your eyes to the fact that there’s much truth in the old saying, "You are what you eat." By cutting carbohydrates from your diet and then re-introducing them gradually, you have made valuable connections about the foods you eat and how you feel. In a regular diet, there are foods that help your body and foods that potentially harm your body. The key to eating a diet that can prevent, control, and cure diabetes lies in understanding which foods are helpful and which are harmful. You now have that understanding.
From this point forward, you can continue to help your body combat diabetes by choosing to continue eating healthful foods on a daily basis. Remember, this is a diet plan for life, and it should not feel like a life-sentence! Experiment with the good food choices you now know and understand, and build on your experiences of new flavor combinations to begin creating your own recipe book for a healthy diabetes-free life.
The American Diabetes Association promotes a healthy diet and regular exercise to treat pre-diabetes and diabetes, and little emphasis is placed on the use of dietary supplements. However, there are a number of supplements which have proven to be effective in helping to combat symptoms as well as helping to boost overall health and well-being.
Always ask your doctor for advice before taking any dietary supplement as not all combinations are suitable for everyone. Some types can interfere with prescribed medications or increase the risks of developing other conditions.
Listed below are some of the supplements which have proven to be effective in the control of diabetes.
Chromium Picolinate: research has found that chromium helps insulin to bond to cell walls making it easier for glucose to be taken in by the insulin receptors. This leads to lower blood glucose levels.
Chromax: the chromium content promotes the same benefits as the chromium picolinate above.
Pycnogenol: studies have shown pycnogenol to be effective in lower blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and managing blood glucose levels.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid: research has found alpha-lipoic acid to play an important role in allowing insulin to function properly.
Calcium and Vitamin D: on-going research is looking into the potential for vitamin D supplementation to lower the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in childhood. It’s also known to help lower blood glucose levels in pre-diabetics.
Magnesium: magnesium plays an important role in lowering blood pressure and it also helps to regulate heart rate, muscle and nerve function, and blood glucose levels.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is around 400 milligrams and it’s worth noting that many natural foodstuffs provide rich sources. For example, one ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 80 milligrams of magnesium and a half cup of spinach contains 75 milligrams.
Asian Ginseng –also known as Korean Ginseng, this has been shown to help lower blood glucose levels.
Curry Leaves: research has found that eating curry leaves can be a useful weight loss aid, therefore of benefit to obese individuals with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Aloe Vera, Garlic, Onions, Burdock Tea, and Cinnamon have all been found to help lower blood glucose levels and aid in the treatment of diabetes.
Water is essential to all life. Around 70 percent of the human body is actually water, so we need an adequate supply just to stay alive, and without proper hydration our health suffers. Dehydration leads to headaches, tiredness, and an inability to concentrate, and in the longer-term can cause serious kidney damage. We lose water every day simply through digesting the foods we eat, so supplies need to be topped throughout the day, every day, and the easiest way to do this is of course to drink water.
However, it’s worth noting that most fruits and vegetables have a high water content, so an added bonus of sourcing your carbohydrates from vegetables is that your hydration levels are topped up at the same time.
Sources of water include the following:
Cucumber ─ 96 percent water
Lettuce ─ 96 percent water
Celery ─ 95 percent water
Zucchini ─ 95 percent water
Melon ─ 94 percent water
Red tomatoes ─ 94 percent water
Cabbage ─ 93 percent water
Grapefruit ─ 91 percent water
Watercress ─ 91 percent water
Strawberries ─ 89 percent water
Carrots ─ 87 percent water
Oranges ─ 86 percent water
Peaches ─ 86 percent water
Apples ─ 84 percent water
Grapes ─ 79 percent water
With fruits and vegetables also providing rich sources of healthful nutrients and antioxidants, many people find a daily green smoothie is a great way to "get their greens" and boost hydration levels at the same time. A green smoothie made with at least 60 percent vegetable content and no more than 40 percent fruit content provides the best combination in terms of keeping the overall GI low. Some nutritious and delicious flavor combinations include:
Spinach with strawberries and bananas ─ the flavor of the spinach is sweetened by the fruit to provide an antioxidant-rich way to rehydrate.
Kale with kiwi fruit and/or oranges─ kale contains vitamin C, iron, calciumand beta-carotene, and citrus fruits such as kiwi fruit or orange provide a rich source of antioxidants along with vitamin C.
Collard greens with apple, pear, banana, and dates ─ collard greens are a good source of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and dates provide iron and calcium.
Step 3 Key Points
Goal = to maintain steady, optimal blood glucose levels
Target = to eat a healthy, nutritious and varied daily diet
Duration = life
As little as 15 minutes of exercise every day can make big improvements to your health. However, if you currently live a sedentary lifestyle, even 15 minutes sounds like 15 minutes too long! The word "exercise" conjures up images of sweaty gyms or people running around getting hot and bothered, and these are not images that encourage participation. So, if exercise is not your thing, is there really such a thing as an exercise plan for life? Yes, there is.
The key to getting involved in an exercise program is to change your focus away from "exercising" and place it on "getting active" instead. You don’t need to be in training for a sport or taking part in a structured exercise class to be getting active, you just need to be on the move. If you’ve spent the last few years of your life avoiding the need to move around by making use of labor-saving gadgets and gizmos, just getting up out of your chair and walking around your home is all it takes to begin realizing the benefits of getting active.
"If it weren’t for the fact that the TV and refrigerator are so far apart, some of us would get no exercise at all" ─ Joey Adams
Exercise can be split into three main categories:
1. Cardiovascular (CV) exercise Sometimes referred to as cardiopulmonary exercise, CV exercise is any activity that works your heart and lungs by getting your heart rate and breathing rate up. Popular examples are walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming.
2. Resistance exercise When your muscles are asked to contract against an external resistance such as a weight in a gym, you are performing a resistance exercise. However, resistance can be provided by your own body and "weights" don’t need to be the gym variety to be effective.
3. Flexibility exercise Flexibility exercises are any form of stretching activity designed to help improve the flexibility of your muscles and therefore improve the range of movement you have around your joints.
Another form of exercise is neuromotor exercise, commonly referred to as functional fitness. Activities in this form of exercise revolve around the use of motor skills, making them particularly important for improving and also maintaining balance, coordination, and agility. Popular examples are tai chi and yoga.
The benefits of regular exercise go way beyond weight management. Additional health benefits include the following:
Improved mood and a boost in your overall well-being
Improved muscle tone
Increased strength and endurance
And evidence also suggests that regular exercise may help to prevent the onset of gestational diabetes
According to the latest American College of Sports Medicine exercise guidelines, adults should aim to achieve 150 minutes of moderate intensity CV exercise each week. This works out at 30 minutes each day, five days per week, but the good news is that the benefits of 30 consecutive minutes of moderate intensity exercise can still be achieved by splitting it into two or three shorter sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each time, or by exercising just once each day for 10 to 15 minutes at a more vigorous intensity.
The National Health Service in the UK defines "moderate" and "vigorous" intensity exercise in the following way:
Moderate intensity = exercising at a pace that raises your heart rate and causes you to break a sweat, but you can still talk while you’re doing it. You know the pace is right if you have enough breath left to talk, but you can’t sing along to a song with ease!
Vigorous intensity = exercising at a pace that significantly raises your heart and breathing rate. At this level of intensity, you’re only able to speak a few words at a time before gasping for breath, and you certainly can’t sing!
This means that if you’re a newcomer to exercise, your definition of moderate intensity is going to be quite different to a regular exerciser’s definition. This highlights that it’s not important whether or not you sign up to take part in a formal exercise session, all that matters is that you raise your heart rate and breathing rate above your normal relaxed rate by getting more active.
For those who have been inactive for some time, simply getting up off the couch and moving around the house more often is a great start. From there, getting out for a walk in your local area is a logical next step. Depending on where you live, you may need to settle for a walk around the block or around your neighborhood, but if you have access to green spaces and parks, getting out in the fresh air can really make the whole experience so much more rewarding. Even a short walk of 10 or 15 minutes is beneficial, and the more often you’re able to get out and walk, the greater the benefits. No specialist "exercise" equipment is needed to get started but it’s important to wear comfortable shoes that won’t pinch or rub as you walk.
The more frequently you walk, the faster your body will adapt to the new pressures being placed upon it. This means that the more you walk, the better at walking you become! You may find that your 15 minute walk route begins to take only 10 minutes to complete and you will be able to walk faster and further while maintaining a moderate level of intensity.
Other ways to get active include ...
Swimming: if you have access to a pool, swimming is another simple way to get more active.
Cycling: if you already own a bike and you have suitable traffic-free paths in your area, cycling is a great way to get active and enjoy some fresh air at the same time.
Home Workout for Beginners
Depending on your circumstances, you may prefer to exercise indoors in the comfort of your own home. The following workout is designed for newcomers to exercise and should take around 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Warm up exercises prepare your body for the activities ahead by gently putting your muscles and joints through a progressively bigger range of movement. By warming up before exercising, you minimize the risk of doing too much, too soon and causing an injury.
Ankle circles: this can be done seated or standing but you may need something solid to lean against for balance. Begin by circling your right foot clockwise several times and then counter-clockwise several times. Repeat the exercise to circle your left foot and ankle.
Knee flexion: this can also be done seated or standing, but a standing position will allow for a greater range of movement. Bend your right knee, aiming to swing your right heel gently toward your butt. Allow your leg to swing naturally back to the starting position. Repeat the swing several times before switching legs to do the same with your left knee and leg.
Hip flexion: in a standing position, raise your right leg with knee bent as if about to march in place. This movement creates a bend in your right hip. Return your right foot to the floor and raise your left leg in the same marching pose so that you create a bend in your left hip. Continue to alternate legs as if marching in place for three or movements in each hip, aiming to raise your knees as high as possible each time.
Trunk rotation: in a standing position, place your feet at hip-width apart and hold your arms out to each side of your body at around shoulder height.
Keep your knees relaxed (slight bend) and slowly begin to rotate your body from your waist to look as far to your right as possible. Return to the center, and then slowly rotate to your left to look as far to your left as possible. Repeat the rotation in both directions three or four more times, aiming to gradually increase the range of movement each time.
Shoulder shrugs: simply shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and then roll them slightly back before allowing them to relax back down. Repeat the movements several times, making sure you maintain good posture in your upper body.
Arm circles: with straight arms, circle your right arm followed by your left arm in a backstroke swimming movement. Continue to alternate arms through several more movements, aiming to gradually increase the range of movement each time.
Elbow flexion: bend your right arm at your elbow and bring your right hand up toward your right shoulder. Allow your arm to gently straighten out again, and then switch arms to do the same with your left elbow. Continue to alternate arms, bending each elbow several more times.
Wrist circles: circle your wrists in the same way that you circled your ankles, first one way and then the other. Trying to circle both wrists in the same direction at the same time can be quite a fun challenge!
Boosting Your Metabolism
It’s well-known that losing weight is essentially a matter of calories in versus calories out, or getting the balance right between the amount of food you eat and the amount of energy you burn doing everyday activities. CV exercises that raise your heart rate and breathing rate are the most commonly prescribed methods of promoting weight loss, however, losing weight and losing fat are not necessarily one and the same. One of the most effective ways to boost your metabolism and promote fat burning is known as interval training.
Interval training is simply alternating short periods of higher intensity effort with periods of lower intensity effort across the total duration of your workout. The efforts don’t need to be precise or timed in any way, you just vary the pace of your workout to prevent your body from slipping into an easy rhythm. The more you switch things around, the harder your body works so you get the maximum benefits in the minimum time.
Another important element of boosting your metabolism, and therefore increasing your ability to burn fat, is to increase the amount of lean muscle mass you have. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn every hour of every day: even when you are asleep. Lean muscle does not bulk you up like a weight lifter and it’s not even necessary to work out with weights to promote lean muscle growth. Simple bodyweight exercises combined with CV exercises that can be performed at home are all you need to raise your heart rate and boost your metabolism to burn more calories.
The following four exercises should be performed one after the other without a rest period to keep your body working.
1. Squats: this exercise targets the major muscle groups in your legs, including your butt, so expect to feel your legs working and your heart rate going up.
Stand with your feet placed at slightly wider than hip-width apart. Allow your toes to angle out slightly so that your knees will follow the line of your toes as you bend your legs to squat down.
Bend your knees to squat down, as if about to sit back into an imaginary chair, aiming to lower your butt to the level of your knees: or lower if it feels comfortable to do so: but just go as low as you can to begin with and build from there.
Raise your arms in front of your body to shoulder height as you squat down, although you may find it helpful initially to place one hand against a wall or solid object as a balance aid.
Reverse the movements to return to the starting stance.
Aim to complete 10 squat movements, making sure you stay in control of the movements in both directions to avoid injury.
2. Jumping Jacks
This is a CV exercise designed to get your heart rate and your breathing rate up, so expect to feel like you’re working hard and push yourself as much as you can.
Stand with your feet together and your arms by your sides.
Jump both feet out to the side, raising your arms out to the side and above your head simultaneously.
Jump your feet and arms back to the starting stance.
Aim to keep "jumping" for approximately 30 seconds non-stop, but you can build up to this in stages if it proves too challenging initially.
If you have knee or other joint issues, a lower impact version of this exercise is to move only one foot and arm at a time, alternating from side to side in a "half jack" movement i.e. right foot and right arm out and back followed by left foot and left arm out and back.
3. Standing Push-Ups
This exercise targets your chest and triceps-- the muscles which form the back of your upper arm.
Stand facing a wall and place yourself around arm’s-length away from it.
Position your hands on the wall at shoulder-height and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Bend your elbows to lean in toward the wall, keeping good posture throughout your body as you do so. Allow your heels to lift up from the floor as you lean in.
Push back from the wall to return to the starting stance.
Aim to complete 10 push up movements, making sure you stay in control of the movements in both directions to avoid injury.
It’s important to maintain correct posture in your back and this can be aided by imagining you are trying to pull your tummy in toward your spine. However, avoid holding your breath by focusing on breathing in as you lean in and breathing out as you push back each time.
4. Jumping Jacks (or Half Jacks)
Repeat the jumping jack exercise detailed above for a further 30 seconds non-stop, or take a short breather every few jumps if necessary and aim to build up to non-stop movement.
After completing the metabolism boosting exercises above, your heart rate and breathing rate will be elevated. Cooling down is simply allowing your heart and breathing rate to gradually return to normal before ending your exercise session. A cool down can be as simple as walking around your home, gradually reducing the pace until you feel that your heart rate has returned to normal. Alternatively, the warm up routine detailed above can be repeated to keep your muscles and joints moving gently as your body cools down.
Home Workout at the Next Level
The above home workout for beginners can be taken to the next level by repeating the whole sequence of four exercises twice in succession without a rest period.
Squats: 10 repetitions
Jumping Jacks: approximately 30 seconds
Push Ups: 10 repetitions
Jumping Jacks: approximately 30 seconds
Squats: 10 repetitions
Jumping Jacks: approximately 30 seconds
Push Ups: 10 repetitions
Jumping Jacks: approximately 30 seconds
When you feel "comfortable" with the above exercises, meaning you feel in control of the movements and you have no balance or coordination issues, it’s time to switch things around to create a new challenge for your body.
Your new routine will revolve around the following four exercises, but you can substitute any of these with the original exercises whenever you need to reduce the level of challenge. It is of much more benefit to keep moving at a reduced level of intensity rather than stop to rest.
Warm up before you begin.
5. Squat Jumps
Perform the squat exercise as detailed above but with your hands placed by your ears (or clasped in front of you at chest level) rather than held out in front.
At the end of the squat movement, spring up into the starting position to finish with an energized bounce from the floor!
Repeat the sequence of moves to complete 10 "squat jumps" in total.
Aim to stay light on your toes as you spring up and land, allowing your hip, knee, and ankle joints to remain relaxed as natural shock absorbers.
6. Step Ups
Stand facing a low step such as the bottom stair in your home.
Step onto the step with your right foot leading, followed by your left foot, and then step back down with right foot leading, followed by left foot.
Repeat the movements to complete around 15 seconds of non-stop stepping, and then switch legs to complete another 15 seconds with your left leg leading the way.
7. Incline Push-Ups
Stand facing a kitchen counter, solid table, park bench, or any solid object that’s of a suitable height such as the edge of your bed. The greater the incline, the more intense the exercise becomes.
Place your hands at slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and maintain good posture throughout your body as you move into the incline starting position.
Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the counter and then reverse the movements to return to the starting stance.
Breathe in as you lower your body and breathe out as you push it up again.
Aim to complete 10 repetitions.
8. Step Ups
Repeat the step ups exercise but aim to increase the intensity by setting yourself the target of completing as many step ups as possible in 30 seconds. However, it’s important to stay in control of the movements to avoid the potential for injury, so build up your speed gradually.
Cool down after completing all four exercises.
A Progressive Routine:
To progress your new routine, begin by repeating the whole sequence of four exercises twice in succession without a rest period. To continue taking it progressively to the next level, switch to using time rather than repetitions when performing jump squats and incline push-ups.
Squat Jumps: complete as many jump squats as possible in approximately 30 seconds.
Step Ups: complete as many step ups as possible in approximately 30 seconds, aim to switch your leading leg at the half-way point.
Incline Push Ups: complete as many push-ups as possible in approximately 30 seconds.
Step Ups: complete as many step ups as possible in approximately 30 seconds.
Squat Jumps: a further 30 seconds.
Step Ups: a further 30 seconds.
Incline Push Ups: a further 30 seconds.
Step Ups: a further 30 seconds.
Adding a Challenge
As your confidence grows, add 10 seconds to each exercise to give your body a new challenge. Keep increasing the time when you feel ready with the aim of being able to complete 60 seconds on each exercise, thereby creating an eight minute routine of non-stop movement.
The more active you become, the more you begin to enjoy being active and you may choose to add a little competitive edge to your routine. The Merrell® 10-minute Challenge is a walking challenge that was developed by the Merrell footwear company, but you don’t need to wear Merrell shoes to give it a try! All you need is a measured route of half a mile which could be a circular route or an out-and-back route of a quarter mile. The challenge is to time yourself walking the route and then compare your result to the times given in the chart below.
Times are in minutes and seconds in each age category.
Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
High ˂ 5:37 < 5:55 < 6:17 < 6:40 < 7:07
Above Average 5:37 to 6:27 5:55 to 7:00 6:17 to 7:21 6:40 to 7:53 7:07 to 8:31
Average 6:28 - 7:31 7:01: 8:05 7:22: 8:45 7:54: 9:16 8:32–10:29
Below Average 7:32 to 8:59 8:06 to 10:09 8:46 to 10:29 9:17 to 11:12 10:30 to 12:04
Low >9:00 >10:10 >10:30 >11:13 >12:05
By comparing your time to the time ranges given for your age group on the chart, you can gauge your current level of fitness. The above chart provides time ranges for women only; a separate chart of time ranges is available for men. Remember, the more you walk, the better you become at walking!
Medical research has proven that regular exercise coupled with good nutrition can reduce body fat and reverse diabetes. Regular exercise can be as simple as taking a short walk daily, and your efforts can be maximized by adding frequent interval training sessions to your routine. The amount of time you have available for exercise will be governed by your individual circumstances, but choosing to make time for one or two short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each day will help you to lower your blood glucose levels, and set you on course to reducing the amount of medication you need and potentially curing your diabetes completely. The feel-good factor generated by regular exercise boosts your motivation to keep exercising, and this in turn leads to overall improvements in your health and well-being that make exercise as routine and as important as brushing your teeth each day.
Rest and Relaxation
The exercises detailed in the home workout sessions above will help you to lose weight, and lose body fat in particular. It is well-documented that weight loss leads to improvements in blood glucose levels and it also alleviates other weight related health concerns such as high blood pressure. Many individuals diagnosed with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are overweight and as a consequence, many have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is linked to many other poor health issues and it’s known that making dietary improvements, exercising regularly, and reducing stress levels all play an important role in its treatment. All of the above are key factors in diabetes prevention and control, making it important not to allow the need for daily exercise to overshadow the equal need for adequate rest and relaxation.
1. Deep Breathing
It has been medically proven that focusing on your breathing and consciously controlling your breathing rate can help to reduce anxiety.
Sit in a comfortable position, perhaps in a chair, on the floor, or on your bed.
Maintain good posture in your upper body, keeping your head directly above your shoulders and in line with your spine. Close your eyes and consciously relax your shoulders to release any tension in your muscles.
Place one hand on the center of your abdomen and the other hand slightly higher on your chest.
Take a deep breath in. Focus on the way your hands move as you inhale. An effective inhalation should result in a sensation of both hands rising as your abdomen and chest rise. A less effective inhalation will result in only your chest rising, and this is known as shallow breathing.
Effective breathing fills your body with oxygen. Taking the time to focus on the effectiveness of each breath helps you to improve the quality of each breath and therefore your oxygen intake. Breathing deeply provides your heart and lungs, and therefore your whole body, with much more oxygen for much less effort.
Aim to practice taking deep, controlled breaths for up to 10 minutes at a time. Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, and on feeling both of your hands rise with each inhalation.
2. Sit Tall Stretch
This stretch is a great way to keep your overall posture in check and to create an upper body posture that will promote much more effective, deeper breathing.
In a seated position, raise your arms overhead with hands clasped.
Take a deep breath in and stretch your arms as far away from your body as possible, as if trying to reach the sky with your fingers.
Slowly breathe out as you relax your arms back down.
With hands still clasped, hold your arms out in front of your body at chest height and stretch your fingers as far away from your body as possible. Tuck your chin in toward your chest and allow your shoulders and back to round as you increase the stretch.
Aim to hold the stretch for a slow count of three before relaxing your arms.
3. Standing Prayer Stretch
In a standing stance, relax your arms by your sides.
Raise your arms in front of your body to around shoulder-height and gently open them out to each side of your body as you take a deep breath in.
Push your chest out and raise your head as you open your arms, allowing your back to hollow naturally.
Relax for a moment as you breathe out, and then repeat the stretch with arms raised higher overhead as you breathe in deeply.
4. Side Stretches
In a standing position, raise your arms overhead with hands clasped.
Slowly and gently bend to one side from your waist, ensuring you maintain an upright posture (avoid tilting forward or backward from your hips).
Return to the center and bend to the other side.
Repeat the movements, aiming to increase the stretch by holding for a few seconds on each side.
Remember this: The human body has a remarkable capacity to self-heal. When you take steps to improve your diet, you give your body a helping hand by providing it with top quality fuel.