How can I encourage my wife, who has diabetes, to exercise more?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 29, 2010
Bryykk asked...

My wife has type 2 diabetes and she is on home partial disability at the ripe old age of 38. I am having a very hard time motivating her to "REALLY" exercise regularly. What can I do before it is too late?

Expert Answers

Theresa Garnero is clinical nurse manager of Diabetes Services at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Motivation to change is personal. Your wife has to want to exercise -- you can't do it for her. What you can do is set up an environment that gives her opportunities to be more active. But resist the temptation to transform from husband to athletic director. Such behavior will likely just backfire.

Instead, think about what activities she does like and how you can partner with her to build these into her daily life. Would she enjoy a regular walk after dinner or to take a dance class with you?  If she's a movie watcher, would she be willing to park across the mall and walk to the theater together? Lead by example. Let her know you are trying to take more steps to increase activity in your lives and invite her to join in.

Research demonstrates the benefits of gentle exercise, something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day. For many people who haven't been physically active, it takes time to build up to a regular routine. Some questions you need to give thought to: Does your wife's disability interfere with her ability to be active or cause pain? Have you asked her if she feels exercise is important? How are you defining "really exercise regularly"?

Talk with your partner about what small steps she's willing to take. Offer to cook dinner or care for the kids while she's on the treadmill. You can go with her to a diabetes support group where she'd hear from other people who might have similar situations she can relate to and be inspired by. Many couples go to support groups and it is helpful for both the person with diabetes and their spouse who doesn't have the disease.

Finally, what did you mean by "before it's too late"? The majority of people don't have a regular exercise routine. True, for people with diabetes, exercise gives a big bang for the buck in terms of reducing insulin resistance and maximizing blood sugar control, but it's not the only way to manage the disease. By involving her primary care provider and diabetes educator, you can further explore what might help your wife become more active, make sure she is safe while exercising, and reassure yourself about her health status.