Ask an Expert: Incorporating Exercise into a Busy Schedule

Q: I always seem to find an excuse not to exercise. What are some easy exercises I can do to incorporate fitness into my busy schedule? — Sherry

Great question – and one that almost everyone can relate to. The big thing to remember is that scrimping on time doesn’t mean sacrificing quality in your workouts. Research shows that 10 minutes of exercise is enough to improve strength, endurance and flexibility. You can even use these 10 minute sessions throughout your day to add up to a full 30 minutes or more! The key is to include exercises that address all three areas of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. Here are a few suggestions:

  • It’s easy to squeeze in a little extra cardio using your home fitness equipment while watching television or waiting for the water to boil while you’re cooking dinner. If you find yourself having an extra few minutes to spare, include intervals after a 3-5 minute warm-up to really get your heart pumping.
  • Bodyweight exercises, such as squats and lunges for the lower body and push-ups, planks, and chair dips for the upper body will hit all of the major muscle groups and don’t require extra time to prepare your equipment.  You can work up to 20 reps of each and add additional circuits as time permits or set a stopwatch on your phone and complete as many reps as you can within 60-90 seconds (depending on your schedule), then move to the next exercise in a circuit style.
  • Yoga Sun Salutations are also a great way to finish or end your day and address all three components of fitness. You can add in a few postures targeting the hips, shoulders, and low back to help you sleep, or  balancing postures, such as tree pose and Dancer’s Pose to ground you and improve your concentration as you head  into your day.

One of the biggest challenges to any exercise program is fitting it in, so include reminders in your schedule or set an alarm on your phone or computer as you make these fitness breaks a part of your routine. Before long, you’ll be seeing big fitness gains from your “no time” workouts.

Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

Treating Exercise-Related Hypoglycemia

Did you know, according to diabetes experts, muscles are responsible for about 90 percent of the body’s use of glucose as fuel? Exercise also affects various hormones which have a direct impact on blood sugar levels. It’s not surprising then, that non-diabetic hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) is common in frequent exercisers and athletes.

If you’ve ever worked out on an empty stomach, you’ve probably experienced the dizziness, muscle weakness and exhaustion of a blood-sugar crash. Understanding how your blood-sugar levels are controlled, and what you can do to prevent these crashes, can help you avoid these symptoms.

Understand how blood sugar works. The sugar called glucose, which is stored in the muscles and liver, is the primary fuel your muscles use during strenuous activities. As part of a careful balancing act, two hormones are released to try to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood, where it can be used readily.

Insulin is released into the blood by the pancreas when blood sugar levels are too high, where it bonds with specialized receptors on the cells. Insulin stimulates the cells at these receptors and tells them to absorb glucose. Once these cells respond to insulin, blood sugar levels drop. When blood sugar is too low, however, the pancreas releases glucagon instead. This hormone tells the liver to releases some of its stored glucose into the blood so that can be used as fuel.

Exercise puts much higher demands on your muscles, forcing them to utilize more fuel – in much the same way as making your car go faster, or pull a heavy load, will increase how much gas it burns. Overtraining can even cause a permanent shift in this balance by increasing insulin sensitivity, which will make it much more difficult for you to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance.

Keeping Balance. Research suggests that endurance training, as opposed to strength training, can be beneficial in preventing exercise-induced hypoglycemia. While strength training uses carbohydrates like glucose for fuel, endurance training uses fat as the primary source of energy. This will prevent blood sugar levels from getting too low.

The most effective method for preventing exercise-induced hypoglycemia though is by adjusting the timing and composition of your meals. Focus on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, starchy vegetables and legumes, which will give you several types of sugar and dissolve more slowly in your system. Try to have a large, carbohydrate-heavy meal at least three hours before your workout so that you have plenty of stored glucose when you start your exercise.

Throughout the day, eat six small meals and snacks rather than the traditional three large daily meals. These meals and snacks should also be made mostly of complex carbohydrates and proteins. Avoid simple sugars like sodas and baked goods, since these will cause a spike in insulin — a response to the quick release of sugar — which will, in turn, cause your blood sugar to crash.

Drinks like coffee that contain large amounts of caffeine can also cause a crash when the stimulant effects of the drink wear off. The symptoms of this “caffeine crash” can be very similar to hypoglycemia.

Most importantly, consult your doctor. Hypoglycemia can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as diabetes, and it’s always a good idea to check-in before altering or starting any new diet or exercise program.

 

Sources
http://diabetes.about.com/od/whatisdiabetes/a/How-Insulin-Works-In-The-Body.htm
http://www.alfediam.org/media/pdf/RevueBrunD&M2-2001.pdf
http://www.drugs.com/cg/non-diabetic-hypoglycemia.html
http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html