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Denise's story: The One Million Step Challenge has helped me prevent type 2 diabetes



"I realised walking is an all-round better feeling for me in every respect, for my health and for my mental health."

Since finding out her blood sugar levels were borderline for developing type 2 diabetes, Denise has lost six and a half stone. Walking has played a big part in helping her lose weight and keep the weight off.


Reality check

I was diagnosed as prediabetic in 2019, my weight was the heaviest it had ever been. Let’s just say I’d been through a long, difficult divorce. When the doctor told me, I was very shocked. The extra weight was one of the factors and they also found I had a fatty liver. They sat me down and explained that if I didn’t try and do something about my weight how it might affect my health. It was a reality check for me. I’d only gone for an appointment for something more general. 

I signed up to Slimming World soon after. The weight was coming off – and I had a large amount of weight to lose. I had nearly got to a four stone weight loss and then Covid happened. I became a baker like everyone else, and I put a stone and a half back on. It took me 17 months to reach that four stone milestone


Stepping out of my comfort zone

In spring 2021 I saw an advert for the One Million Step Challenge. I thought 'oh my goodness, 11,000 steps a day!" I’d taken early retirement and I worked out I was only doing an average of 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day. It would really take me out of my comfort zone, knowing I’d have to do it constantly. 

"I don't like being told I can't do something"

A week before the July start date, I mentioned it to my partner. I said, "do you think I could do this?" He said no, pretty much! I don’t like being told I can’t do something. And I signed up for the event on the last possible day at the end of June. I didn’t tell him. 

I thought even if I couldn't get sponsors, I would pay to receive the medal myself, I’d be happy with that. That’s how determined I was once I’d signed up. I told a few friends about it but I didn’t put it on any social media apart from Diabetes UK’s One Million Step Facebook group. And then I finally told my partner. He was surprised but he could see I was set on doing it. 

I can’t believe it was only at the age of 56, last summer, that the penny dropped. Being healthy wasn’t only about healthy eating. I needed to be active.

"I knew the walking would help me lose weight. And that would bring my blood sugar levels back down. I felt it was self-inflicted. There are some things we can’t control, but I wanted to take control of my health."

First steps

I can remember when I first started the walking, I found it really difficult to get to the magic figure of 10,000 steps a day. I wasn’t actually enjoying it. But I knew I had to do it because wanted to achieve it. But then something happened, I don’t know when, and I started enjoying it. I found the steps came easier and I got quicker. 

At my heaviest, I couldn’t walk very far without my back hurting. Now, I still huff and puff a lot when I’m going up the moors, and the wildlife may disappear but I am quicker! 

I’m on quite a tight budget but walking is free. I have a camera so photography is also free. The joy, the pleasure from just being out and about taking photos (see one of Denise's photos further down), it’s just brilliant really. If that doesn’t make you feel better, I don’t know what does. I haven’t had to go to a fancy gym or have a certain treatment. 

"It's strange but now, I find I’m constantly thinking about moving. Quite often if the weather is rubbish, I’ll walk in the house. The cats know to keep out of my way!  I’ll step to really good dance music around the house just to keep me going." 

Keeping motivated 

I was actually very scared doing the challenge. I thought "what will happen when I get to the end of it?" So I made the decision to carry on. I do virtual walking challenges like Conqueror (virtual fitness challenges) to keep me going until this year’s One Million Steps event. It’s kept me motivated.

Altogether I’ve lost nearly six and a half stone, but I still have more weight to lose. But since I started doing the walking, every week at Slimming World I’ve either maintained or lost. That’s the proof that with walking, I’m losing weight. I’m doing it right.

I mainly walk with my partner John. Before, he would do all the walking and now I join him. As I’ve become fitter, I walk further and take more photographs. Rombalds Moor is just a mile away and there’s always so much to see.

Sheep on Yorkshire moors, photo taken by Denise Jerkins

Good news

I found out my blood sugar levels were in the normal range again a couple of months ago after I’d finished the Million Step Challenge, when I could finally get a blood test at my surgery. But I haven’t sat on my laurels with the walking. I realised it’s an all-round better feeling for me in every respect, for my health and for my mental health.


Unexpected generosity

I was happy and shocked at how generous my friends were in sponsoring me. One of my friend’s husbands who sponsored me last year said he’s so proud, he will donate £100 to Diabetes UK if I get to my target weight. It’s good to know that that the money will help a lot of people with diabetes and be put to good use.

I registered for the 2022 event as soon as registration opened, but I’ve never left the Diabetes UK Million Step Facebook group! I love the fact that everyone is there for the same purpose, like a little community. I like the camaraderie. It’s good for sharing tips too.

Good footwear is my tip 

I like telling people about my new memory foam shoes. Feels like heaven when you put them on your feet. They’re very light and you can throw them in the wash. My feet hurt less and I can walk much better and further because they’re so comfortable.

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