Pandemic slowdown may have hidden benefits for diabetes health
By Aimee Bowcott
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, December 14, 2020
During these strange times of the pandemic, a lot of our world has changed – but not all of it has been for the worse.
As we're forced to remain at home more than usual we are all presented with the opportunity to slow down a bit and make room for better management of our health – whether that's diabetes, other health conditions or just our overall well-being.
For people with diabetes, the pandemic comes with a list of unexpected opportunities, including having more time for physical activity and a chance to adopt healthier eating habits.
Like it or not, we're all spending more time at home. That decrease in travel time can translate to more time for exercise. Why not use that time to your advantage by working out with videos on YouTube, by participating in virtual chair yoga, or by finding other means to increase your physical activity? Remember, all movement counts and will contribute to your overall wellbeing and the management of your diabetes.
Don't know where to look for exercise programs you can do at home? You can find local, expert-led sessions online from sources like the Reh-Fit Center and Wellness Institute. If that's not up your alley, simply go for a walk outside, up and down your stairs, or even just around your own home a few times a day. If you can't commit to long periods of exercise, try a simple five minute stretch or movement break each hour. If you add that up over eight hours, you will have completed 40 minutes of activity!
No matter what movement option you choose, though, be sure to check-in with your healthcare provider or an exercise specialist like a kinesiologist before starting something new to ensure you are keeping yourself safe.
Staying home gives you an opportunity to cut back on trips for fast food and sugary coffee that may make managing your diabetes challenging. Likewise, fewer trips to the grocery store gives you added incentive to plan ahead and to incorporate healthier options into your diet. Be sure to stock up on healthy snacks like fruit and cheese, veggies and dip, unsalted popcorn and natural nut butters.
There may even be more time for preparing healthy homemade meals or batch cooking. Many meals, including soups or chili, can be prepared in one preparation session and frozen for later use. These can be scheduled for a day where you have more time, like a day off, which is easier to do now that there are fewer options to go outside the home on weekends. Use this food prep time to chop extra veggies or cook extra protein so you can significantly reduce the time you'll need to prepare other meals during the week.
Other helpful wellness tips include:
- Following public health guidelines that apply to everyone: wash your hands, stay home when you can, avoid crowded places and, if you must go out, wear your mask properly and practice physical distancing.
- Learning more about managing your diabetes by checking out the Diabetes Canada website at diabetes.ca or participating in a virtual group offered through the WRHA Health Management Guide.
- Monitoring your blood sugars regularly, taking your medications as prescribed, getting plenty of rest, and limiting alcohol intake.
- Managing stress and anxiety by focusing on the things you can control, taking some downtime, reading that book you've always wanted to, reconnecting virtually with old friends, restarting an old hobby (or trying a new one), going outside or listening to some music.
If, despite your precautions, you develop symptoms such as a cough, high temperature or you feel short of breath, be sure to:
- Monitor your blood sugar more often than usual and take action immediately if there is a change.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of low or high blood sugar, and
- Stay hydrated with unsweetened drinks.
Lastly, remember that the pandemic, and its resulting restrictions, are temporary; they won't last forever. If you need help during this time, contact your diabetes care team, pharmacist, healthcare provider or other community resources like the AbilitiCBT resource available at manitoba.ca/covid19/bewell/index.html.
By making the most of opportunities to take better care of yourself and better manage your diabetes or other chronic health concerns, , you can make the pandemic your finest hour.
Aimee Bowcott is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Regional Manager Clinical Nutrition-Community. This column was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, December 14, 2020.