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Feel Better. Fight Diabetes. Get Fit.

Feel Better. Fight Type II Diabetes. Get Fit.

By Caitlin Stackpool

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to address the importance of fitness not only for overall health, but for preventing Type II Diabetes. Are you exercising as much as you’d like, or as much as you should to stay healthy and fight disease? If not, the YMCA can help.

First: What’s at stake?

In Colorado, the adult prevalence of diagnosed Diabetes Type II increased 55% from 2003 to 2014. In the U.S., diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. When we talk to people at the Y about diabetes prevention, we try to bring those number home. We talk about the seriousness of the condition and what getting diabetes could mean to their lives. Is it loss of limbs, loss of vision, loss of independence, loss of mobility? For every individual, the impact is personal.

The power of exercise

The good news is that we can control one of the biggest risk factors of diabetes, which is being overweight. It’s been proven that exercising 150 minutes per week can help reduce the risk of obesity, and thus reduce the risk of diabetes. Losing just 7% of your body weight can help!

A lot of people think it’s too late to start, or that any amount of exercise at this point is not going to change their health. But the truth is, it can. We tell people that starting at any age can make a big difference in their functional strength for the rest of their lives. It will affect how they play with their grandkids, take in the groceries, mow the lawn, and more.

Getting fit together

Another thing people often don’t realize is the inspiration and support they can get by participating in a group. That’s the foundation of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Over the course of 25 sessions, participants engage in classes where they learn easy-to-implement eating habits, discuss physical activity, and take active steps to prevent diabetes. Most importantly, they get the support of people who are going through the same experience they are. They work together and help each other.

Participants stay with the program for an entire year to get ongoing guidance and encouragement. They also get a membership to the YMCA while participating in the program, which helps them stay committed to their fitness goals.

Fitness every day

The Diabetes Prevention Program can help divert the disease process. It’s recommended for people who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. It also is ideal for people who may be at risk but not know it. Because it is a “silent” health condition, only 7% of adult Coloradans studied in 2014 were aware they had the condition.

If you feel you may be at risk, it’s important to see your doctor. If you’re at least 18 years of age, have a Body Mass Index of 25 or above, and have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or a qualifying risk score, you may be eligible for the Diabetes Prevention Program. To learn more, click here.

In the meantime, regular exercise and good nutrition are imperative. Regardless of whether you’re in the YMCA Diabetes Program Prevention program, there are things you can do to feel your best and fight disease on your own:

  • Be mindful when you eat. Slow down and savor each bite. Learn more here.
  • Aim to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep fat intake to less than 20% to 25% of your total calories.
  • Get moving for more than 150 minutes per week. This doesn’t have to be a workout on the treadmill. Park further away, take stairs, dance in your home – all movement counts!

Take time to think about your health now – and 20 years from now. Think about where you want to be and how you want to feel. Be aware, be healthy, and contact any of the YMCA’s professional fitness staff for tips on getting active. We’re here to help!


About Caitlin Stackpool

Caitlin is the Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator for the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver. With a background in clinical exercise physiology, she has a passion for disease prevention through making small lifestyle changes. She loves the Y for its sense of community and for being a place for all.