Type 2 diabetes is a numbers game. There’s counting carbs and calories, keeping blood glucose levels in range, and performing enough cardio and resistance training to maintain strong muscles and a strong heart.
But balancing these figures can prove stressful, not to mention tedious, particularly when you’re also dealing with parenting, work, and everything else going on in your life.
What’s needed is a strategy – or, perhaps, a game.
Gamification – the concept of applying game elements to nongame problems – began in the business and marketing worlds. Video game techniques and game elements were used to offset otherwise boring activities, transforming them into fun.
How can you use this in diabetes care? I’ve used it both to motivate myself by pitting my present performance against my past, to lose weight, and to stay fit. It can be as simple as figuring out what motivates you as a reward, and whether you want to work against yourself or with others.
Attending an exercise class can turn a tedious activity into fun. While lifting weights on my own bored me to tears, working out in a supportive environment, where we challenged one another not to quit, made a huge difference. What was the reward? A cup of coffee with friends afterward, where we compared aches and pains but vowed to meet up for the next killer class.
Or what about personal bests? Riding an indoor bike on inclement days gave me the hives until I figured out that I could watch the Housewives during my hour trek. But here was the challenge: I could only watch Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and Dubai when my butt was planted on the recumbent seat. Strangely, I began to crave that ride, since I knew that time was reserved for the catfights and designer clothes.
How can you gamify your type 2 diabetes care? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Invest in an activity tracker. Trackers run on principles of gamifying everything from workout times to calorie goals to sleep. Many apps reward you with virtual badges when you hit goals. Some even sponsor monthly competitions, and you can also compare stats with friends.
2. Involve people you know. If everyone can handle some friendly competition, enlist your nearest and dearest to game out counting carbs, calories, or exercise minutes. Placing a few bets on who might be most consistent for that week can be motivating, as can deciding that if everyone makes the weekly goal, there will be a group reward. (For example, something like an outing or a small family purchase; just don’t make it ice cream sundaes unless they fit into your plan!)
3. Enlist a buddy who is more fit than you. If you want to push your fitness to the next level, train or tag along with a pal who is already there. The goal isn’t to kill yourself but to “play up” to him or her. By challenging yourself, you might be able to move out of a longtime comfort zone or a dreaded weight plateau.
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