Hear from people with diabetes who have discovered the importance of keeping active. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something small or new, or just that little bit more of something you already do — all physical activity is good for diabetes.

Muhammad cheering

Muhammad IsmailDiagnosed aged two-and-a-half

Football community

“Football has loads benefits for me. I use it as a way to manage my diabetes better. When I’m playing, it lets me switch my mind off. It also makes me less insulin sensitive, which is quite cool. Learning how to manage diabetes and activity was a challenge, but so worthwhile. The Diabetes Football Community is so diverse, and we share messages if we’re struggling or looking for support. People are always there to help. We all want to help make each other’s health better.”

“Today, my healthcare appointments are more of a conversation, sometimes all it takes is for someone to listen and try to understand. If you are struggling, know that you’re not alone. Bounce off people, celebrate the small wins, and take it one step at a time. There is a lot of good in this world, and I’m thankful I’ve found it when I need it most.”

Read Muhammad Ismail's complete story
Denise wrapped up for one of her One Million Step walks


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.

Read Denise's complete story
Christine's story

ChristineDiagnosed with type 1 in 1971

Living a full life thanks to the discovery of insulin 

Insulin has meant that I have had a life. I’m especially grateful to those amazing people who discovered insulin as it has enabled me to live a full and active life. Everyone, whether they live with diabetes or not, has challenges in life.  

I think the diabetes has made me aware of food types and enabled me to keep my weight at a sensible level. I have always enjoyed keeping fit, and I made friends with a lady in 1985 who has shared my love of fitness classes. We’ve done them all!   

My husband and I have learned to dance, too.  We have gold medals in ballroom and Latin dancing, and we’ve performed on stage in front of an audience.  

And we love our holidays. We’ve flown over the Grand Canyon, we’ve seen Swan Lake being performed in St Petersburg, and we’ve cruised around the Mediterranean, the Aegean sea, Norway and the Baltic Sea. My most favourite holiday has to be Iceland: we saw the northern lights.  A true delight. 

Christine abseiling


Christine and her husband did an abseil to raise money for us last year, to celebrate 50 years of living with diabetes. We’re making huge strides with our research getting us closer to a cure for type 1 diabetes.

We’re also continually looking to fund research into lessening the complications of living with all types of diabetes, and supporting and fighting the corner of everyone living with this relentless condition. We couldn’t do it without the support of people like Christine.  

Read Christine's complete story

Diagnosed with type 2 after having gestational diabetes

"Riding horses makes me feel particularly at peace"

Fresh air and  exercise are really helpful. I think, from a mental health point of view, coming out into the countryside, and just being in the air and away from people, and with the animals relaxes me. I'm very lucky that I can get away and it helps me to feel like me again. 

Telling my children about my diagnosis was probably the hardest time for me, particularly as I'd lost my eyesight. They were obviously quite anxious. I had to explain to them what to do if they found me having a hypo. My daughter would come riding with me but she started to get anxious about coming in case I had a hypo while we were out on the horse.

When I'm riding I don't have to think about what my body's doing and my diabetes, I can just get on and enjoy what I'm doing. I always go out with my glucose tablets in my pocket, just in case. But at the same time, I'm not constantly worrying whether or not my blood sugars are okay. I just get on and go. 

Read 's complete story
A picture of Maureen smiling into the camera

MaureenDiagnosed in 2020

Reaching out for help

Initially, I had reached out to the helpline to get advice about my diet and what to eat. After listening to what I had to say, they called me back and referred me to the Physical Activity service they were running. 

I would say I was quite active in the past, but I had a lot of surgery at the beginning of 2019 and that impacted what I could do. I spent a lot of time not moving around very much at all.

I used to love being outdoors, walking or exercising, so I wanted to get back to that place. But being so overweight and so fatigued all the time, I just didn’t know how... Even a quick trip to Tesco, getting some shopping and carrying it back to the car, would wipe me out for days afterwards.

I’ve found the sessions really good, and it’s so nice to have somebody who not only has the time to listen to you - but wants to. When you go to the doctors or ask to see your diabetes nurse or dietitian, there’s often a long, long wait before you get an answer to your questions. That’s what’s so different with the helpline - advice and support is almost instantaneous. 

I spoke through all my goals and what I wanted to achieve, and received that one-to-one support I had been desperate for. Having someone so invested in you, and knowing that they care for you, makes you really want to stay accountable and push on with what you’re doing. For me, calling the helpline was really a kickstart to transforming my life.

Read Maureen's complete story
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