A fast blast from the past…why exercise is just the best

Having a good old tidy of files and documents on my computer, I came across this article which I wrote for the British Medical Association’s ‘Healthy Living’ Section in their weekly magazine a couple of years ago. It is slightly dated now and we’ve all come a long way since but there are some important points sprinkled in the text highlighting my personal experience of the significant benefits of EXERCISE for the management of type 1 diabetes. Feel free to have a read 🙂 In the meantime, I’m getting into the swing of reflecting for my final year of medical school so there will potentially be some more blogs cropping up from me in the next few months!cycling girls

Exercise, particularly running, has always been an integral part of my life and after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in December 2012, it has adopted an even more significant role. After experiencing all the textbook symptoms for a few weeks, it was the significant weight loss and simply unquenchable thirst that triggered a visit to my GP. An off-the-scale blood glucose and ketones in my urine prompted emergency admission to hospital with suspected DKA. Tests there revealed a blood glucose of 41.3mmol/l. No wonder I felt so rotten! This diagnosis has been life-changing and has had a profound impact on both me and my family. I am now on four injections of insulin daily.

Initially, I was worried that my diabetes would prevent me from doing regular exercise but in fact, as time goes on I realise more and more the importance of regular activity and the benefits it confers. When I exercise, I feel happier and healthier both in body and mind. Importantly, it helps keep my blood sugars more stable and reduces my insulin dose requirements. Soon after my diagnosis, I decided to sign up for the Great Manchester 10K Run which took place in May 2013 to raise money for DiabetesUK. I started training in January running outside and at the local gym. Fortunately I am a big fan of running and really enjoyed pushing myself and seeing my progress. I welcomed the presence of insulin in my body again and the difference in my energy levels and general well-being even after only a couple of days was remarkable! Crossing the finish line in May with a time of 45.23 was quite an emotional moment. It was a small victory for me in my battle with diabetes and proved that it would not stop me from doing what I enjoy. More importantly, I managed to raise £1578.14 for DiabetesUK. The race served as a great motivator to keep training but the realisation of the benefits to my diabetes management has made sport and exercise an essential part of my daily life. And it’s not just running! Since my diagnosis I have swam, cycled, hiked, played tennis, climbed mountains – anything to get my heart rate up! All I need to ensure is that I monitor my blood sugars before and after activity and have a source of fast-acting glucose available should a hypo occur.

This year has been a huge learning curve but as a medical student I feel it is important to reflect on and learn from experiences like this. I now have insight into how it feels to be a patient and realise how frightening hospitals can be. Diabetes is with you 24/7. There is no holiday. I now understand what it is like to have a chronic condition and feel I will be able to relate to patients on a whole new level. I have come to understand the importance of exercise and fitness both in prevention and management of diseases such as Heart Disease, stroke, diabetes (Type 1 & 2) and depression. I believe that the promotion of regular activity should be of top priority amongst patients and the general population. Human beings are not designed to sit around all day. We have muscles so should use them! I feel in a privileged position to have experience of working in the healthcare profession but also having a patient’s perspective. It is still early in my training and I am not sure what path of medicine I will pursue but what I am certain is that I will be the first to advocate the benefits of regular exercise, particularly in the management of Type 1 Diabetes.