Exercise is often treated as a task to check off so that we can move on with our day—but the rest of our to-do lists usually involve a lot of sitting. It’s tough to fit in movement when sedentary behavior is intertwined with all aspects of everyday life, says Michael Lynch, M.S., RDN, CDE, a registered clinical exercise physiologist.
Make no mistake: setting aside 30 minutes each day for moderate exercise like walking or riding a bike is important. And it has amazing health benefits: improved insulin sensitivity, reduced anxiety and improved sleep, to name a few. But experts now agree that what you do between exercise sessions can have just as big of an impact on your health and your diabetes management. All this incremental movement burns calories, reduces high blood sugar and boosts insulin action. Plus, it all counts toward the overall goal of 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity each day of the week.
1. Map out your week.
Sketch out a calendar that lists each day of the week and breaks each day into half-hour blocks. Then, think about your typical week and go through each day: shade in the blocks during waking hours that you spend mostly sitting or reclined. This can include commuting, using a computer, reading and watching TV.
2. Identify your sedentary blocks.
With your map complete, take a look at the whole week at once without judgment. What do you notice? Tally up the hours that you spend sitting or reclining each day. Do you see any windows of time where you could choose to be more active? Are there other times where it would be less appropriate to move more?
3. Make your movement plan.
Look at any shaded blocks of 90 minutes or more—these present prime opportunities to work in more movement. Think about how you could add in a few minutes of activity here and there. To set your plan into motion, use a different-color marker to draw lines at the times you’re committing to move.
4. Choose your movement.
Any activity counts! Need ideas? Break up sedentary time with a variety of movements, such as squats, jumping jacks or simple stretches. Start small by choosing one or two moves, or combine moves to fit your situation.
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