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.



My motivation to walk

I’ve been walking more since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2020. It definitely lowers my blood sugar levels.

When my HbA1c went over 100mmol/mol (11.3%) about 12 months ago, I started in earnest to try and do something about it. I started walking regularly and it came down to the mid-60s. I normally do two to three miles a session. And I walk most days – or at least five times a week. I just walk round the streets – I have a few routes. I work nine to five so I do it in the evenings after dinner. I walk on my own – and I’ll listen to podcasts.

I’m a member of Diabetes UK and I saw something on Instagram about the Liverpool Wellness Walk and I thought ‘I could do that’. And I signed up. My wife’s from Liverpool and we’re in Kirkby.

The walk is eight miles, so I’m building up to it and increasing the amount of time and distance. I’ve done a couple of five mile walk circuits and I’m going to do a couple of six milers this week and then a seven-mile walk. 

When I first started walking, I couldn’t do more than a couple of miles without flaking out. Now I can do a five mile walk at a decent pace and not get exhausted. 

My HbA1c was high again when it was checked in January. I fell off a bit because I went on holiday in October and then there was the run up to Christmas, but I’m getting back into a routine and doing an hour’s walking again most days. 

It’s the first time I’ve ever done any fundraising. Our work’s got a social media platform and I’ve got a lot of support from there. My dad has type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed at 15 and he’s now 70, and has just been fitted with an insulin pump. So I’ve seen first-hand the developments in treatment over the last 30-odd years. And they’re only possible because of charitable donations.

"If you’re new to walking, I’d say: pace yourself, work up to a comfortable distance. And don’t set your expectations too high too soon. Just gradually increase how far you’re walking". 

Read Sean's complete story


Making changes

I’m an engineer by profession, so I’m always looking for ways to solve problems, and I knew I needed to make changes. Exercise was a huge part of my journey to remission, and it was an intervention from a friend that put me on the right path to a healthier lifestyle. My friend offered to help me train in the gym, and although the training was intense, it was lovely for someone to put themselves out like that – and I was prepared to do the hard work.  
Aside from overhauling my lifestyle, I also ran the London marathon for Diabetes UK, which was my biggest challenge to date. I worried that I wouldn’t have the physical capacity, so I started speaking to a running coach who talked me through the process of training. I built myself up to a point where maybe once a week I was committing 20 per cent of my day, maybe a little more, to training. There’s no greater motivation than knowing you did something that you set out to do. From what I’ve learned, Diabetes UK do phenomenal work funding much-needed research, so if I was going to run the London marathon, it was going to have to be for them.  

Read Jez's complete story
Paul Ibberson


Getting active  

I realised I needed to do some form of exercise but wasn’t keen on the gym – it just wasn’t for me.

I took up running, which was not an activity I had done before, but came to enjoy it and would run up to three times a week. I wasn’t particularly sporty, so it was a completely new experience.

I also downloaded the Couch to 5k App, something I would never have even thought about doing. I went from feeling like I would die if I ran 50 yards, to running three miles without stopping. It took a couple of months with the running, but I found my groove and got into a routine. 
I was monitoring my weight and blood pressure, and over time I started to lose weight. With the changes to my diet and incorporating the exercise, my weight went down to 12 stone 6 – and I now hover at around 13 stone 6. My waist reduced from 40 inches to 34 inches, and I started to see and feel the difference. It was a complete lifestyle change and one that I’ve really benefited from. 

Read Paul's complete story
Lucy holds 7 medals up. She is smiling and wearing her Diabetes UK Vest.


I can still remember lacing up a pair of old unbranded trainers to go out on my first run. I hadn't run for many years, since school, I was a busy mum of four children and my body wasn’t overly impressed with the new demands I was putting on it. I managed small distances and after a few weeks I noticed that I was able to run further, it became easier and I was really empowered by this.

Best bits

You get out of running what you put into it, and you are accountable only to yourself. It's not all about the running. When I sign up to races, I get to visit new places and I meet new people on my running adventures. I have some fantastic running buddies, and some of these likeminded people have become good friends.

I encourage other people to run all the time because I appreciate what it has done for me. Have faith in yourself and you will be surprised what you can achieve. You can run socially with friends or you can choose to run alone, it can as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be.  Ultimately it will improve your physical and mental health. We are all different, but no matter what the distance, from 5km to an Ultramarathon, if you go running, you are a runner and I am a firm believer that it will better your life.

Hard moments

There have been many hard moments, like finding myself on a trail marathon on a very cold January day, trying to stay upright, let alone run in ankle deep mud for 26.2 miles. That was a tough one. I think the hardest part of running regular marathons is dealing with the tiredness that can build. I am lucky that I have never been injured, but the body aches and pains can really knock your confidence, especially if you have an event coming up.

Training, running the marathon and then recovering, on repeat can be tough. I learned this especially when the marathons fall on consecutive weekends. If you price in the routines and demands of regular life on top of multiple marathons then at times it can be exhausting. I have learned to try to not to give this too much energy, knowing that tiredness will pass and over the last couple of years my recovery time has much improved. When I have felt exhausted, the sponsorship and the belief from others has kept me motivated.

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Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 16


TV garden presenter Lee Burkhill with a snowboard

I learnt to ski in my mid-twenties just as a hobby and then got totally bitten by the winter holiday bug! After a bad accident and a damaged knee I decided to switch to snowboarding which has taken pretty much all the pressure off my knees now vs skiing. What I love about it is the silence. My life is very noisy. Presenting, speaking to clients, and always in discussion with someone. Whereas snowboarding, a bit like gardening, is a really quiet and mindful activity. Your mind is totally focused on turning and being in the moment where every other work distraction or worry gets put on hold. I must admit I'm a total snowboard addict. I get away on my board for at least 3-4 weeks each winter all across the world. I work hard to play hard!

Diabetes challenges

The biggest challenge with winter sports is that you have to really plan your insulin and snack provisions when you're on the mountain. As you can be miles from anywhere I always have at least 3 snacks in the pockets or my jacket. Just in case I go low. Keeping insulin warm enough can be tricky so I use an internal lined pocket for that. The Freestyle Libre made checking blood super easy, as I used to have a back pack for my blood kit which I don't need. Making trips far lighter and less cumbersome.

"I find that when snowboarding my insulin ratio changes. So each day I'm on the mountain I tweak that ratio to keep my bloods perfect rather than going low. But it was trial and error for the first few years."

Tips for travel and diabetes

Be prepared is probably the best one. Whilst you can tell people around you about diabetes you do need to be responsible for yourself. I always travel with a backpack full of snacks, medication and everything I need. I don't rely on airport shops being open or other amenities.

I always travel with a full day’s worth of snacks and fluids, that way you're never caught off guard if your transfer doesn't show up or you're stranded. Also, time differences can cause people to panic with their basal rate. Go easy on yourself. I'd always rather run slightly high for 24 hours than end up having a hypo on a plane or on a coach. If travelling alone always tell the person next to you on a plane you're type 1. Just drop it into the conversation so at least they're prepared if you do have a hypo!

Speak to your healthcare team for personalised advice about managing your diabetes when travelling that's specific to your needs.

Get more tips on travel and diabetes.

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