Diabetes is increasing rapidly and one in twenty people in Scotland are now diagnosed with diabetes with a new diagnosis every thirty minutes. Self-management is critical to avoid serious complications such as blindness, amputations, kidney failure and a greatly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Depression is also twice as high in people with diabetes compared to the general public.
The key issues in self management are healthy eating and exercise. For most people with diabetes some weight loss can make a significant difference to their diabetes control however losing weight and maintaining that loss is challenging.
Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, circulation and energy levels. It also reduces body fat and stress and promotes a feeling of wellbeing, combating depression and anxiety.
However regular exercise is one of the most difficult challenges for people with diabetes.
The West Lothian Diabetes Lifestyle Project supports people with diabetes in the self-management of their condition. Currently the project includes walking groups, personal trainer led exercise sessions, Easyline seated exercise sessions and a Nutrition Club. All the activities are weekly and based on the principles of providing a safe and welcoming environment for small groups of people with diabetes with expert input which helps to overcome barriers such as lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, poor fitness levels, limited experience of exercise, lack of knowledge and concerns about the impact of food and exercise on diabetes and other health conditions. The group dynamics and weekly sessions greatly improve motivation and general well-being.
All participants some of whom have never before taken formal exercise or received professional nutritional advice , report a general improvement in fitness, overall health and well-being with a positive impact on their weight and blood glucose levels. Several members have been able to reduce or entirely dispense with diabetes medication because of the improvements brought about by the sessions. Most have also increased their levels of exercise outside the sessions and the education incorporated in the sessions on both fitness and nutrition will enable them to make the most of activities in future years. The sessions are stretching but also good fun and one of the most important benefits has been the forming of friendships and a feeling of involvement which has spilled over into other group activities. Many members have commented on how the sessions have helped with depression and anxiety.
The project has been praised by local healthcare professionals who are happy to refer their patients to the Group for support, information and encouragement.