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First Steps into Fitness

by Kailee Fretland

Healthcare providers encourage active lifestyles, particularly for diabetic patients who should include regular exercise as an essential part of their diabetes management. We know that incorporating exercise into our daily schedule can help achieve overall weight loss, lower blood sugar and help the body accept insulin more efficiently. We also know that getting started can be intimidating.

Luckily, the patients at the Red Lake Hospital in Red Lake, Minnesota, have access to a free fitness center on weekdays. Yet a lot of patients with Type 2 diabetes have told me that they are reluctant to use the fitness center. They say they fear being judged, feel they don't have the appropriate attire, or they don't know how to use the equipment. That is a lot of obstacles, both physically and mentally, to overcome.

To help reduce the fear and inhibitions of attempting a new activity, it helps to have someone with you. So to help my diabetic patients, I have introduced the concept of going to the fitness center with them as part of our appointments.

One patient, 51-year-old Terri Desjarlait, of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin, who is a seamstress and makes traditional regalia, was first diagnosed with diabetes six years ago. Terri had never used a treadmill or elliptical machine. She had all of the typical fears. We went over to the fitness center together, and I introduced her to the staff, showed her around and helped her get started on the treadmill and with other equipment. After that initial visit, we met a couple of other times at the fitness center, walked together and talked about healthy lifestyles and physical activity.

On her own, she started going to the fitness center most days of the week, and worked her way up from walking for five minutes to 30 minutes. She was excited to see her blood sugars improving, and her energy levels increase. She also found an additional benefit: exercise can lift your spirits and make you feel good.

The buddy system is a great way to increase your daily exercise goals, keep each other motivated and on the path to better health.

The next time you go for a walk, invite a friend. Even with a simple walk, every step makes a difference!

CDR Kailee Fretland, PharmD, BCPS, NCPS is a clinical pharmacist at Red Lake Hospital in Red Lake, Minnesota. She provides clinical pharmacy services to help patients meet their diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol health goals. Fretland is a descendant of the White Earth Chippewa tribe in Minnesota.

Patient information is being used with permission.

Kailee Fretland