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.


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. 

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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.

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Ruth smiling as she stands outside her local swimming pool

RuthDiagnosed with type 2 in 2019

Starting my journey to move more

Before lockdown I was more active. One of my jobs was as a walking tour guide, so it involved a lot of steps and being on my feet. But then during the lockdown, I did nothing.

Where I live is also quite close to the beach, so where I would normally go for a walk was packed with other people as soon as the weather was nice. That made me feel uneasy, and when you live on your own - you don’t really have anyone to talk you out of that mindset. Once I had it in my mind that it was too scary to go outside, that was it - I wasn’t going out. 

I knew that I needed to do something to take control of my diabetes, so that pushed me to get help from Francesca. Back in January, I had received my latest HbA1c results which was the highest it had ever been. I know I’m not very good at doing things on my own and that I need a bit of support or help - so after seeing her post in the forum, I decided to reach out to the helpline. 

Rethinking 'exercise' 

The sessions were really good; Francesca was very good at listening to where I was coming from, but also at helping me to reframe things and just think about ‘movement’, rather than exercise.

I think there’s so much in the media and online about exercise and huge goals or milestones like running 10k or a marathon - but actually what Francesca was really good at helping me to think about was what counts as movement. Putting a song on and dancing? That’s moving. And that really helped me to see that any type of movement is good. 

Calling the helpline has helped me see that moving more is something I can do; that it’s totally within my control and that it doesn’t have to be anything big or extravagant - it can fit into my everyday life and it’s so much easier than I first thought. 

I’ve definitely incorporated dancing a bit more into my days, but through chatting to Francesca I’ve also remembered how much I enjoy swimming. In the last month I’ve been able to join my local leisure centre and I’m swimming twice a week at the moment - I absolutely love it.

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ChrissieDiagnosed with type 1 in 1967

Starting my journey to move more

I first saw the Get Moving courses advertised in one of the Diabetes UK e-newsletters. I used to go to an exercise class every Monday, but they were stopped because of the pandemic and I was looking for something to replace that. I had tried a little of Joe Wicks and chair-based yoga on the NHS website, but I missed that feeling of getting active with other people. 

I have to say, I really enjoyed learning new movements during the 10 weeks and I loved the little chats we had at the end of each class. The boxercise class was probably my favourite, but I had a great time trying something new each week - it helped to keep things interesting.

Interested in signing up to future Get Moving courses? Email or call 0345 123 2399 to find out more. 

I’ve realised how important it is to keep moving, and how easy it can be to introduce more movement into your life. I’ve been setting myself an hour each day, from 3pm to 4pm, where I do half an hour of physical activity and half an hour of relaxation - I find that if you set aside the time and plan it into your day, it helps you to stay on track and get it done.

I made notes throughout the course of the movements and activities we were doing, so I’ve got them to look back on alongside all the little tips and tricks we learnt to keep myself motivated. And I don’t do the same thing every day, I keep it varied - some days I’m gardening and other days I’m stretching. But it all counts and gets me moving.

I think I’ve realised how moving more can help you feel more awake and alive, and I’ve just felt so much better about myself as a result. Every week of the course was so positive and motivating, and that’s helped me to keep going and continue to feel that way!

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Jamie smiling as he takes on his UK Wide Cycle Ride challenge

Jamie Cycling in memory of his dad

My UK Wide Cycle Ride challenge

I did think it was going to be quite difficult to fit the challenge in, especially because of things opening up and being busy with work and friends, but because I had something to strive towards and aim for - it felt really manageable and easy to get into a routine. 

I joined the Facebook group and found it to be a really supportive space. I was hoping to find a cycling buddy but unfortunately no-one seemed to live near to me, however I know lots of others were able to pair up. I did have friends who joined me for parts of my rides though, and that was a really nice way to stay motivated. 
I’m quite lucky with where I live too, as there are lots of nice cycle routes and paths to follow. For my final ride, I travelled along a coastal path down to Brean Down, which is an old hill fort. The last bit of that route is an almost a vertical climb, with the same scary drop on the way down, and I’d avoided it every other time I’d done that ride as part of the challenge. But for the final ride, I thought ‘let’s do it’ and it was an incredible moment for me.

I was worried that I was going to struggle with the cycling when I first started, but towards the end I felt really good and like I could keep it up even after my 250 miles. Sadly, life got in the way and I haven’t got out on my bike as much as I wanted to - but I’m hoping to take part in the September event when things have quietened down a bit more as I really enjoyed it. 

I think my one tip for people thinking of taking part is to pick an achievable target to begin with, because you can always do more!

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