Diabetes Self-Management: Staying Active And Healthy In The New Normal

Continue to practise diligence, especially when living with conditions like diabetes and take the necessary steps to plan your lifestyle around effective diabetes management.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — With the relaxation of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs), we are transitioning back to a near pre-pandemic normalcy to resume many social and economic activities.

As people continue to practise diligence, people with chronic and non-communicable diseases especially, must be more aware of their health and well-being while making the most of the flexibility to access and establish healthier lifestyle habits, including good food, facilities, and health care.

People living with diabetes for example are required to be mindful of their condition when socializing outside. While it is easy to get excited by the food and places to sight-see, they should be careful not to exert themselves or give in to peer and environmental pressure like overeating, joining extensive physical activities, or forgetting to eat. 

According to Dr Manoharan Paranjothy, a consultant in primary care and pharmaceutical medicine on Abbott’s Glucerna Lifestyle Change Programme: “People living with diabetes were in better control and made effort to reflect positive changes in self-care and diabetes management during the lockdown. The return to office, gatherings or travel means they may now be more occupied with social plans and become less attentive to maintaining these good lifestyle habits.”

However, Dr Manoharan also believe that this new phase should be used to cultivate new habits and lifestyle changes that enable individuals living with diabetes to adjust safely to the new normal. This includes:

Practice Mindful And Intuitive Eating When Dining Out

Meal planning remains an integral part in diabetes management to help one lead a healthy life and keeping their blood sugar levels in check. For those who are new to meal planning, it is advisable to start out with the plate method, which is widely known as the #SukuSukuSeparuh or Quarter Quarter Half concept, to identify whether a meal is healthy and balanced1

People with diabetes who wish to make more informed decisions in meal planning can also engage certified diabetes educator, dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor to plot out a simple meal planner to create a healthier long-term eating pattern.

Often, diabetes-specific formulas such as Abbott’s Glucerna are recommended to be incorporated into a healthy eating plan, as it helps to manage glucose levels in as soon as four weeks by reducing glucose fluctuations when used as a part of lifestyle interventions2,3

Introduce Active Movements Or Exercise Routine To Stay In Range 

Physical activity is known for its many benefits and can help reduce the amount of glucose present in the blood and thus, improve insulin sensitivity throughout the body.

Regardless of one’s age and blood sugar status, there’s strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help to reduce the risk of developing long-term and insulin resistance-related complications, such as cardiovascular disease and strokes4. It is also a great way to keep your body in shape and manage your weight. 

Introduce 15 to 20-minute active movements into your everyday life, even if they are not in the form of structured workouts for a start. For example, going on a quick coffee run, gardening, or scheduling a weekly walkabout with friends can help maintain your overall functional strength and mobility.

Subsequently, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, in bouts lasting at least 10 minutes or more, with a goal of at least 30 minutes per day5,6. Otherwise, one could also aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week6. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, dancing, tennis, or biking7.

Dr Manoharan recommends, “Try to form support groups that encourages exercise regimen as part of the daily routine, while considering food and insulin intake to prevent hyper- or hypoglycemia. Involvement from family member to participate in your diabetes management journey can also serve as a great form of motivation when done together.”

Travel Smart And Plan Meals In Advance To Avoid Unneeded Hunger

While it is exciting to finally dust off your travel bags and passport, it is essential to plan your trips ahead and schedule a visit with a doctor to ensure you are fit for the journey.

For travellers planning to visit destinations where medical resources can be scarce, it is highly recommended to prepare extra supplies and a letter from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes8

Avoid leaving your body hungry and eat well before your long-haul flight. Make sure to also pack diabetes-friendly snacks like almonds, cheese, whole grain crackers, or Glucerna Vanilla ready-to-drink as your emergency food bank while on the move.

Plan your journey ahead and avoid extreme physical journey that could throw off your blood sugar level and remember to listen to your body to get enough rest during your journey. 

Monitor Blood Glucose Levels At Regular Intervals 

Regular blood sugar monitoring is one of the most important routines to help paint a clearer picture of the patients’ glucose patterns and identify potential issues.

Thankfully, Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technologies such as Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre offers an easy, painless, and on-the-go solution in diabetes self-management, allowing users to check and track their glucose levels in just seconds9

Commenting on the cadence of glucose monitoring among people with diabetes, Dr Manoharan shares his observation on two common behaviours.

“The first group has a higher sense of health awareness and diligently conducts self-monitoring while the other tends to be less consistent by obtaining their blood sugar reading from pharmacists from time to time,” he said.

He reminds people to confirm the right cadence with a doctor as it can range between four to 10 times a day depending on the person’s condition.

March Into The New Normal With Mindfulness 

Malaysia is making a big stride in helping the people to transition into the new normal and allow for flexibility that enables us to run our life and economic activities as before.

However, we should continue to practise diligence, especially when living with conditions like diabetes and take the necessary steps to plan our lifestyle around effective diabetes management.

Speak to your doctor today and apply the steps or thinking we shared from this article to develop a holistic diabetes management plan and be in better control of diabetes.


1. Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Panduan Pinggan Sihat Malaysia. 2016. 

2. When used as part of diabetes management (including prescribed medication, diet and exercise)

3. Glucerna has been shown to reduce glucose fluctuations, when used as breakfast replacement as part of a lifestyle intervention (Peng et al., 2019).

4. Everyday Health. How Exercise Helps Prevent and Manage Type 2 Diabetes. 2020.

5. Tremblay MS, et al. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011

6. Colberg SR, et al. Diabetes Care. 2016

7. American Heart Association. Recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids.

8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 21 Tips for Traveling With Diabetes. 2021.

9. FreeStyle Libre. Home. 2022

This is an article by Abbott.

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