How to Manage Diabetes in the Armed Forces in Less Than 30 Minutes a Day

By Nicole Langerman, The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health; & Roberto Ruiz, Pentagon DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic, Fit To Win

weight_training_56095774With a fast-paced lifestyle, finding time to get meaningful physical activity can be difficult for anyone. November is American Diabetes Month and according to the Veterans Administration, 25 percent of patients have diabetes. Research shows that active duty service members have a similar incidence of diabetes as civilians. As the temperature changes, weather can place an additional barrier to physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, which can be broken down into shorter intervals. Start with a goal of 30 minutes per day at least 5 days a week. Strength training on 2-3 days per week can enhance insulin sensitivity, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Here are a few ways to make a short workout count in order to help keep your diabetes under control and maintain military readiness.

Get tracking!

Fitness and health trackers have flooded the market in the past few years. This means consumers have access to a wealth of valuable health data at their fingertips. Some watches and activity bands monitor sleep and physical activity. These technological gadgets work with fitness and diet apps to address all aspects of healthy lifestyle, while easily syncing to your smartphone or tablet. It is not uncommon for people to overestimate the amount of calories they burn, while underestimating the amount of calories consumed, so tracking can help you find the balance you’re looking for.

Divide your workouts into smaller intervals.

Who said you can’t get a great workout in less than 30 minutes? During cardio (aerobic) sessions, try short interval sprint training (1 minutes hard, 3 minutes recovery) or cycling at a higher intensity. Not only will these adaptations help burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, but they can also help prepare active duty personnel for their physical readiness test. During strength training sessions, focus on movements that include large muscle groups such as leg press, bench press, and lat pull-down.

Make a standing desk

Not only can a standing desk help increase your metabolism, but it can also contribute to more leg strength and circulation. According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Create a makeshift standing desk by placing your computer monitor and keyboard on top of a box on your desk. Start with 10-20 minutes of standing each hour and increase your time as you get acclimated to standing. This tip is especially important for those who work on a submarine or ship who tend to sit for long periods of time. Can’t change your desk set up? Work in some exercises throughout the day to break up sitting time. Try 5-10 repetitions of these three exercises: calf raises, squats, and lunges. Performing these small workouts may not seem like a lot, but if done once a day, five days a week, for a year, it can make all the difference.

Living with diabetes is manageable. Along with dietary intervention, physical activity is highly important in controlling diabetes. Simple changes like these can help anyone who is managing diabetes, including active duty service members, veterans, and civilians. Make a plan and stick to it! Get moving!

Editor’s note: This post was first published on the Be Active Your Way blog and is being shared on the Prevention Policy Matters blog in honor of Veterans Day.