Truth be told, the most important kind of exercise is the exercise you can stick with. Finding an exercise routine that resonates with you is essential — something that will carry over week to week and year to year.

One of the best ways to engage in a long-term relationship with exercise, not surprisingly, is to be socially engaged and active with other people. Be it the accountability or the comradery, it simply works. Throw diabetes into the mix and it’s a win-win situation.

Why walk alone?

Harvard University has jumped on board with this exercise companionship philosophy, encouraging health and mild exercise through established group walking programs. They aren’t alone either; recent research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine pinpoints multiple health benefits associated with walking groups — namely adherence. They have found that exercising with others is a very effective approach to fitness.

Researchers from Norwich Medical School have discovered that this type of exercise is lasting, which is an important piece of the puzzle. With group obligations, not to mention companions waiting at the start, walking has shown tremendous health benefits even in groups that don’t meet standards measuring up to “moderate” activity.

Group exercise is not only engaging for the body, but also the mind, creating a truly social experience for members. Talking while walking increases workload on the heart and lungs as well, giving participants more bang for their buck during group activities. We can gain benefits in other areas too: the encouragement, patience and steadfast nature of our peers keeps us coming back for more.

Measure your up and down time

Here’s the crazy thing — sitting too much or ‘being sedentary’ for extended periods of time, even for those that regularly exercise, has been clearly associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer according to research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Based on this research, we know that every bit of movement counts. Following this thinking, Howard LeWine, MD, chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publications, suggests that we measure not only the amount of time we spend moving or exercising, but also the amount of time we spend inactive. “Up” time accounts for any time we’re not sitting, such as when we’re housecleaning, cooking meals or shopping.

Dr. LeWine suggests keeping a log over the course of a few days, writing down the time of the day and when we get up from bed, from the couch or any other time we are on our feet. If we can be more cognizant of our “down” time, perhaps it will be easier to add in more “up” time as well.

Exercise is relative to one’s state of health; walking may be difficult for many people, therefore refocusing on simple body movement is also an important health metric.

Benefits of Movement:

• Improvement in mood
Lowered blood sugars
Decreased insulin needs
Balanced weight
• Improved metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol and resting heart rate

Be sure to check with your healthcare provider about managing your diabetes and other health issues when beginning a new exercise routine. Then find a local walking group and join them to reap the benefits!

To learn more about exercise and diabetes:

Exercise Is Not a Dirty Word
How Morning Exercise Benefits Diabetes
Basic Guidelines for Aerobic Exercise