Goodbye Coronavirus Blues!


COVID-19 knocked our lives for a loop, didn’t it?

Has your life turned sideways this spring? Ours did.

We’re all facing a grab bag of fears right now. There’s little purpose to listing those fears, since they constantly run through our minds. Let’s focus instead on the other thing we have in common—prediabetes.

Prediabetes isn’t high on that list we’re not mentioning, but it’s in that bag somewhere.

For the most part, the problem is our eating habits have taken a turn toward the unhealthy.

We used to shop regularly for fresh foods and add in canned goods as needed. We rarely brought home processed or prepared foods.

Now, like everyone else, we’re eating a lot of processed and frozen prepared foods. Plus, the carbs are just everywhere.

This weekend, it finally began to feel like we’re getting accustomed to this (hopefully temporary) new life.

Let’s support each other as we begin to make choices that steer us back toward healthy living.

If you’re older and/or have underlying conditions, reach out to a younger or healthier family member or friend and arrange for fresh food to be delivered twice a week. If you have no one to do this for you and can’t afford a frequent delivery charge, then let’s talk about other choices.

Cookies and pies and plates of spaghetti all mean comfort food for many of us, but it’s time to turn away.

We don’t want to get through the age of coronavirus to find we’ve moved from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. Wouldn’t that be a rotten outcome!

Let’s make a pact to set aside those foods that make our blood sugar spike, and instead focus more on canned or frozen veggies, and chicken, eggs, pork, or whatever proteins we have around.

There’s another choice we can make: exercise.

Those of us with dogs can walk them. A lot.

Does the lawn need tending? We can pull weeds, dig up dead plants, rake out moss, mow the grass, and clean up the weed whacker for a go at cutting down the parts the mower can’t reach.

Plant a garden. Let’s break up the ground and map out a fresh food repository.

Let’s dust off the elliptical machine and use it, or simply get down on the floor and start stretching.

None of us should do anything new that we haven’t run by our healthcare professional. We can email their office to check on an activity, then enjoy.

We’re all in the same place. Let’s help each other get safely to the other side of this pandemic.

Exercise Is Our Jam

brisk walking

Eat less, move more, yadda, blah blah, harrumph.

We’ve heard it. We know we should do it. If for no other reason than because it’s a healthy way to live. And, if we’re prediabetic, it helps to reduce our chance of developing full-blown diabetes.[1]

In this post, let’s focus on the “move more” part.

We want to move more, we just want the right to complain about it along the way.

But bonus, they say that once we start exercising, endorphins will race through our bodies and make us happy. Plus they’re supposed to numb the pain. (Looking forward to that.)

A position statement[2] from the American Diabetes Association says that diabetics and prediabetics should participate in physical activity and exercise. So there’s that, for an added bit of motivation.

Before you leap off the couch and start running in place, talk to your healthcare provider to get guidance on what type and how much exercise you should try.

Moderate exercise[3] appears to be more than adequate in combating the elevated blood sugar of prediabetes. Moderate means you have enough breath to chat while exercising, but not enough to sing. No need to practice sprinting when brisk walking will do.

Exercise loosely falls into four categories: aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility. Ideally, your week will include all of these types of exercise.

Aerobic, or endurance, exercise cranks up our heart rate and breathing. Brisk walking, hopping on the elliptical, dancing (not slow dancing, the other kind), quick marching in place—whatever activity you want to try that gets your heart rate up will be fine.

Strength training is good for all ages, but as we get older, we lose muscle mass. If you’re middle-aged or older, this means you. Resistance training with bands or weights, push-ups against the wall (or floor, if that’s your preference), squats and lunges—they all help rebuild muscle.

Balance exercises are key to preventing falls as we age. Practicing Tai Chi, standing on one foot or walking heel to toe, side-stepping across a room—there are lots of ways to improve balance, but remember, it’s generally safer to work with a partner.

Flexibility exercises keep our body limber. Without flexibility, it gets hard to bend down and pick up money off the floor. Reason enough to stay loose. Stretching each muscle group, yoga, shoulder rolls, using stretch bands—aging muscles get shorter and lose elasticity, but stretching regularly counters the aging effect.

We need to get off our rears and move. If you find that you’re sitting for a few hours each day, make it a habit to get up every 30 minutes and stretch, do a household chore, just move.

Remember, this is for a healthier body and, more specifically, to knock our blood sugar into normal range. In other words, it’s important!

Thirty minutes each day, move at a moderate pace. Get your heart rate up. If you don’t have time to do this for a 30-minute block of time, then break it up into three 10-minute blocks. As long as you get the minutes in and your heart rate is increased for 30 minutes every day, that’s the important bit.

If your lifestyle has been sedentary for a few years, plan a slow but definite path to moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day.

Start out with three minutes of stretching and don’t worry about increasing your heart rate. Do this for four days, then add three minutes of walking as fast as you feel comfortable. And so on.

Keep adding in minutes of activity every few days until you are active for 30 minutes each day. Once you’ve reached that threshold, take a few of those minutes and exercise at a moderate level. Build from there, and within a few weeks, you’ll be exercising at a moderate level for 30 minutes each day.

The timeframe for building a healthy exercise routine will be individual. The only person we need to compare ourselves to is . . . ourself.

How Zen is that?!

[1] Cochrane Library, Diet, physical activity or both for prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its associated complications in people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus,, (February 3, 2020).

[2] American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care, Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association,, (February 3, 2020).

[3] Duke Health, Is Moderate or Vigorous Exercise Best for Glucose Control?,, (February 3, 2020).

Exercise and Blood Sugar Levels

As prediabetics, our goal is to stay far away from type 2 diabetes, and to eventually get out of prediabetes land.

We’re working on our weight and changing what we eat. Do we really need to exercise, too?

It’s worth taking a look. If we can’t reach our goal without adding exercise to our lives, we need to know that so we can make an informed choice.

Cochrane[i] published an update[ii] in December 2017 of an earlier Cochrane Review from 2008. The review searches for an answer to our question: Is exercise necessary to lower blood sugar levels?

Here’s how they set up their review:

For their search methods, they, “searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase,, ICTRP Search Portal and reference lists of systematic reviews, articles and health technology assessment reports. The date of the last search of all databases was January 2017.”

And for their selection criteria they, “included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with a duration of two years or more.”

OK, sounds good. Let’s see what they found.

Although they make it clear that more research needs to be done, at this time there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer as to whether just changing one’s diet and not exercising, or just exercising and not changing one’s diet, affects the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

But, there is some evidence that for prediabetics, changing one’s diet and increasing physical activity may reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

What kind of exercise are we talking about?

Before we get into that, be aware that exercise can change blood sugar levels. The direction isn’t always down. Under the right conditions, blood sugar levels will rise with exercise. Or the levels might go too low. They’re fickle.

Check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regime to determine what’s safe for you.

There are multiple studies about exercise and the reduction of blood sugar levels. It isn’t yet clear how vigorous that exercise must be to show a benefit, although low intensity exercise doesn’t seem to do much to lower blood sugar levels.

Basically, we’re talking about low, moderate, and high intensity exercise.

Low intensity: walking, stretching, housework – if you can talk and sing without running out of breath, you’re exercising at a low intensity.

Moderate intensity: jogging, cycling uphill, lifting weights – if you can talk, but you can’t sing more than a few notes without running out of breath, you’re exercising at a moderate intensity.

High intensity: running, a rapid set of jump squats, jumping rope as fast as you can – if you can’t say more than a handful of words without becoming breathless, you’re exercising at a high intensity.

Another way to measure the intensity of a workout is to monitor your maximum heart rate (MHR). Low intensity gets you to 40 to 50 percent of your MHR, moderate intensity gets you to 50 to 70 percent of your MHR, and high intensity gets you to 70 to 85 percent of your MHR.[iii]

There’s quite a formula to finding your MHR and personal percentages. The talk method is an easier way to monitor exercise intensity.

Looking at some of the various studies completed so far, it seems that short bursts of high intensity exercise may do more to lower blood sugar levels than longer sessions of moderate intensity exercise.

There is no certain answer yet as to level of exercise needed to do the job, but it’s pretty clear that changing eating habits and exercising is the way to go.

Check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your eating or exercise habits. It’s important to get healthy, but we don’t want to accidently harm ourselves along the way.

[i] Cochrane,, (March 9, 2019).

[ii] Cochrane Library, Diet, physical activity or both for prevention or delay of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its associated complications in people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, (March 9, 2019).

[iii] Mayo Clinic, Exercise intensity: How to measure it, (March 10, 2019).