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Setting Goals for Your Exercise Program

If we ask what we need to do to control our diabetes we could all recite the three branches of treatment, diet, medication and exercise. Why then do we not carry through with our goals for exercise? It is our opinion that frequently we set unrealistic goals and therefore we just plain give up. So before we look at how to set better goals, let’s look at the kind of thinking that gets all of us into trouble Now, I know that the reason for exercise is different for type 1 and type 2 diabetics, but the truth is that we should all be taking exercise seriously, so let’s put our differences aside and look at the type of thinking that leads to defeat.

  1. First, we try to be perfect every day in every way. This type of thinking allows us to binge or cheat in both food intake and in skipping our exercise program.
  2. Second, we promise to eat only “diet” or special foods and to never over eat. Wrong! We all know that we eat out or at friends’ homes.
  3. We set goals to lose 20 pounds a month. For this we go on fad diets, read the latest miracle diet and try it, or we don’t ask our health care team and just stop eating properly.
  4. We try to have a “perfect” body like a TV or movie star, while we remain who we are.
  5. We get disappointed when we work hard and don’t drop the pounds as we think we should.
  6. We punish ourselves for not doing the exact number of minutes or number of repetitions we set for ourselves.
  7. We punish ourselves for missing an exercise session.
  8. We only work on our exercise program when it’s not too big of an effort.

When I was running groups for people with diabetes, it was always interesting to note the number of very angry people in the group. When we spoke about this anger and where it was focused, we noted how often people sabotaged their treatment plans. It was not their friends or family, but themselves and they did not realize what was happenings. They did not realize that they were setting goals to be a “super” person who never gets hungry, tired, ill, stressed, overwhelmed, bored, or some or all of the above.

How do you begin to correct this type of thinking.

  1. First, we have to learn to change the focus to who you are and how you feel rather than how you think you look and what you weigh.
  2. We must determine a healthy weight for you, depending on your height, build and past weight history.
  3. Set a goal of succeeding most of the time, let’s say 8 out of 10 times so that you don’t have to punish yourself by bingeing or giving up on your diet and exercise program.
  4. Expect to make mistakes and decide how to learn from them.
  5. Don’t set deadlines for your loss of weight or getting into a certain dress or jacket size. This will set you up for giving up on your exercise program.
  6. When you set up an exercise and diet program, do it with people who you know like your health care team. They can look at you and know your needs without being overly involved.
  7. Do recognize that some exercise is better then none. Modify the type, intensity, and duration of exercise to your current mood, if necessary. Just don’t stop the program.

So where do you start with these new goals? Go to your physician and get his or her input. You will get some idea of what you are capable of doing on a daily basis. You will learn what you need to do to regain your health. Do you have cardiovascular disease, neurological complications or kidney disease? Your program will be different. Do you need to maintain your weight, lose weight, regain flexibility, strengthen muscles, improve endurance or do most of these? Once you decide the underlying reasons for your exercise program, the next thing to do is to select the right kinds of exercises for developing and maintaining each of the basic components.

  1. Specify is important. Select the correct types of activities to effect each goal. Strength training results in specific changes. Also train for the specific activity you’re interested in. For example, optimal swimming performance is best achieved when muscles involved in swimming are trained for the movement required. It does not necessarily follow that a good walker makes a good swimmer.
  2. Overload is also important. When you make your goals you need to set them so that you will work hard at your level of fitness. The goal here is to plan a program in which you work vigorously and long enough to overload your body above its resting level so that you bring about improvement.
  3. Plan your goals with a regular exercise program in mind. You can’t hoard exercise. You have to plan to exercise at least 3 times a week to maintain the level of fitness you may desire.
  4. Plan for a progression of intensity, frequency, and duration of activity over the proper periods of time in order to improve. Have your health care team help you with some ideas of when to upgrade your intensity and frequency as well as the activities you select.
  5. Know which activities are good for each goal. Some can be used for more than one. For example, running is good for cardiovascular and respiratory health as well as for endurance and muscle building. If you select the proper activities it is possible to work on more than one goal at a time. Again, ask the expert.
  6. If one of your goals is weight loss, you need to recognize that you need to keep food intake and energy output or exercise in a certain proportion. Exercise calls on stored calories for extra fuel. It can also increase metabolism during a workout, and can keep your metabolism higher even after your exercising is over. How much exercise depends on the amount and type of exercise you choose to do. A medium-sized adult would have to walk more than 30 miles to burn 3,500 calories, the equivalent on 1 pound of fat. Walking a mile a day for 30 days would achieve the same thing as long as you don’t increase your food intake. If you eat 100 calories more a day than your body needs, you will gain approximately 10 pounds in a year. You could lose that same weight by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
  7. When you make your goals do understand that muscle weighs more than fat. Well muscled people with very little body fat often weigh more than what is held up to be normal on standard charts. Body composition is a better indicator of your condition. Do remember that lack of exercise cause muscle to become soft, and if food intake is not decreased, added body weight is almost always fat. Once active people who eat as they always did when they stop exercising tend to suffer from “creeping obesity”.

How can we help you decide to sit down and set these reasonable goals? First exercise can improve your health by strengthening your heart and lungs, improving cholesterol levels, increasing muscle strength, reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk for certain illnesses as well as helping you lose weight. If you are type 2 diabetic, it is known that exercise will improve your control. Exercise also improves your sense of well-being. It gives you more energy, improves your sleep habits, allows you to deal with stress better and keeps your mental status at previous levels. As you firm up and lose weight, you enjoy an improved self-image so that you will feel less isolated. You can meet new people and make more friends. With improved strength we all become more productive, have fewer physical injuries and have improved immunity to minor illnesses.

We will end this article with a list of activity calories burned per hour for different exercises. Although we have printed lists before, we are asked frequently for a reprint so here it is:

Bicycling 6 mph = 240 calories
Bicycling 12 mph = 410 calories
Jogging 5.5 mph = 740 calories
Jogging 7 mph = 920 calories
Jumping rope = 750 calories
Running in place = 650 calories
Running 10 mph = 1.280 calories
Skiing (cross country) = 700 calories
Swimming 25 yds/min =275 calories
Swimming 50 yds/min = 500 calories
Tennis (singles) = 400 calories
Walking 2 mph = 240 calories
Walking 4 mph = 440 calories

You can probably come up with plenty of excuses for why you’re not more active. You’re too old, too busy, you have diabetes, you’re already in good shape for your age, but with few exceptions, these excuses are flimsy. If you read these exercise articles, you know about many different types of exercise. Now you know why we sometime don’t carry through with what we know we need to do.

We know we must visit our physician before we begin to see what we need to do and how to fill our goals. We know what goals we need to set which will be different for each of us. We have an idea of what we need to do to lose weight and how we gain weight. So there is less to do than you thought. Sit down and make up those goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure again as we all have in the past. Don’t be a victim of “creeping obesity”. Get busy. Get Smart. Get in shape.