July 3, 2021
When we live with Type 2 diabetes, we quickly realize that our immediate family lives with it, too. Family support is essential when it comes to day-to-day management of diabetes and avoiding serious health issues related to the disease.
Diabetes can affect the entire family in several ways. In particular, our blood relatives should be aware that a family history of Type 2 diabetes puts them at higher risk for developing both Type 2 and prediabetes.
Adults with Type 2 diabetes should work toward increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes on a weekly basis. The ideal is moderate aerobic activity such as walking (2 miles in 30 minutes) spread over at least three days each week, with no more than two days in a row without exercising. Some other examples of moderate physical activity include bicycling (4 miles in 15 minutes), water aerobics (30 minutes), stair walking (15 minutes), gardening (30 to 45 minutes), and raking leaves (30 minutes).
Unless your health-care provider advises you not to, add resistance or strength training to your regimen at least twice a week to build and maintain muscle. Regular physical activity and exercise can help improve hemoglobin A1c (an estimate of your average blood glucose level over the past two or three months), overall fitness, heart health, muscle strength, and sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps control blood glucose levels.
If physical activity hasn’t been a regular part of your diabetes treatment plan, start slowly and build up. And it’s always a good idea to discuss any plans with your health-care provider, just to make sure that you’re in shape to handle added physical activity.
Let your family members know about your regular physical activity — joining in and exercising with you may help them avoid developing Type 2 diabetes. Regular moderate activity of 150 minutes per week has been shown to reduce blood glucose in those at risk and decrease the rate of onset of Type 2 diabetes over time. Even young children in your family who are risk for Type 2 diabetes can benefit by engaging in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
To increase the whole family’s activity levels, try to include more “NEAT” (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) activities like walking up and down stairs and walking in place during TV commercials in everyday life. Lead by example where physical activity and exercise is concerned; it will help with your own day-to-day diabetes management and, if they follow you, could lower your family’s risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Think “family activity” during every season. Winter workouts may include building a snowman or, when the weather is too cold to be outside, exercise indoors. In the spring, plan a family vacation or weekend outing that includes exercise. As the weather warms up, skip the drive-through car wash and tackle the job as a family. During the summer months, make going for a walk, run, or bike ride together a scheduled event. Take up a new family hobby such as inline skating, tennis, or hiking. And in the autumn, sign up as a family and train together for a charity run, walk, or bike ride, or take weekend walks in different places around town.
Encourage your family members to be proactive in their efforts to minimize their risks for Type 2 diabetes. Increased physical activity, healthy food choices, and sustained weight reduction all improve insulin sensitivity and therefore decrease insulin resistance. These positive lifestyle behaviors also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which also can help lower the risk of heart disease.