1. Big idea: Exercise more
Why it matters: Studies have shown again and again that physical activity can do more than just help you lose weight. It can improve your cholesterol, reduce stress, prevent osteoporosis, lower your blood pressure, help you sleep, boost your immune system, and give you more energy. Plus, when you engage in physical activity, your muscles use glucose for energy, reducing your blood glucose levels. Exercise also increases your insulin sensitivity, which means you’ll need less insulin to get glucose to your cells.
Small step: When researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied how thin people burn calories, they found that they incorporate more random spurts of activity (including actions as seemingly insignificant as fidgeting) into the day than their heavier counterparts do. Thanks to all of that spontaneous exercise, the lean group burned 350 more calories per day than the overweight set. What that means for you: Adding little bursts of activity to your day—delivering a message to your colleague in person instead of by e-mail or picking the stairs over the elevator—can make a big difference.
Try this: Each time you find yourself glued to the tube, exercise during one set of commercials. Within a month, increase your workouts to two commercial breaks.
2. Big idea: Get more sleep
Why it matters: You need sleep to recharge your body. Cutting your nightly rest short by even a couple of hours could impact your decision-making and work performance, increase your risk of high blood pressure and depression, or make you gain weight. And in a 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who reported shortened periods of sleep or poor sleep quality had higher A1Cs than those who had a long, restful slumber.
Small step: When life gets busy, sleep is often the first thing to go. Because going to bed an hour earlier is brilliant in theory but hardly ever possible, try setting a super-easy goal. Maurer suggests going to bed one minute earlier than your normal bedtime. Getting one extra minute of sleep may sound silly, but, Maurer says, “you want to make sure the step you take is so ridiculously small that you’re 100 percent sure you can do it.” If you can really alter your bedtime by, say, five or 10 minutes, go ahead.
Try this: This month, move your bedtime up by one minute—or five, if you want. Next month, shift the time by another minute or two and repeat each month until you reach your goal.
3. Big idea: Eat healthy
Why it matters: Eating good-for-you foods can boost your health in many ways, including reducing your chances of developing heart disease. Modifying your diet with healthier fare could also help you lose weight and better control your diabetes.
Small step: Upping your meals’ nutritional value sounds like an easy idea until you’re face-to-face with a box of jelly doughnuts calling your name. Instead of shocking your system by totally upending your diet, start with small changes you can easily achieve. “Each meal, add something that’s healthy for you, such as a piece of fruit with your hamburger and fries,” says Maurer. At the start of each new month, add a new healthy item to your meal. “What you’re hoping eventually is that the good foods will win out.”
Try this: Integrate one fruit or vegetable—any variety that will excite your taste buds—into your dinner each night. It doesn’t matter if you choose raspberries or radishes, just pick good-for-you food and make it part of your meal. Next month, add another healthy food to your supper. (But remember to account for the extra carbs.)
4. Big idea: Check your feet
Why it matters: If you have nerve damage in your feet, you may not be able to feel injuries that would typically make you yelp in pain. Ignore the injury for long enough and you could get an infection. People with diabetes are also at an increased risk for foot blisters and ulcers.
Small step: You take your shoes off every day, so why is it so difficult to squeeze in a foot exam? The simple answer is that many …