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Home > Knowledge & support > Resource hub > “Evidence gives us a great opportunity” – making exercise easier with type 1 diabetes
Having played sport for longer than I’ve had type 1 diabetes, being able to provide support in this area in my role at JDRF is extremely important to me.
I was diagnosed with type 1 age eight and as an avid footballer then, and now, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of being active with type 1 at different ages, in different environments and in different sports. Through those experiences, alongside the opportunities I’ve had to play football and futsal from grassroots through to an international level, I’ve been able to hone in on where improvements could be made for people with type 1.
This knowledge and experience led me to develop The Diabetes Football Community (TDFC) which provides a supportive community for anyone with diabetes who’s passionate about football. What I learned from working on this peer support project has helped hugely in the approach I’m now taking at JDRF to tackle what we know is an important topic for our type 1 community.
In February 2023, the research I did for my Masters degree, which looked at the issues faced by people with type 1 in sport, was published. This is when I started thinking about gathering more evidence to help to build a picture of the challenges faced by people with type 1 who want to do exercise, sport and physical activity.
Recently, we ran a poll via the JDRF Social Media channels to help us understand the themes which are important amongst the community. Unsurprisingly to us, based on our experience talking to people with type 1, physical activity and sport came out as one of the most important.
This insight gave us an opportunity to drive our own insight into type 1 and physical activity – the first time we’ve done this at JDRF UK. Thanks to the generous support we received from the Peter Harrison Foundation, we conducted a survey of just over 300 people living with type 1, to look at where people saw the challenges and barriers to accessing physical activity.
The survey findings showed the challenge that hypoglycaemia poses whilst being physically active, with 46% of respondents telling us that hypoglycaemia presented a barrier to being physically active. 39% of respondents said that the complexity of managing type 1 around exercise stopped them taking part.
Another area of focus within the survey was that 66% of people surveyed reported that they’d either never or only on a couple of occasions found a PE teacher, sports coach, or facilitator of sport and physical activity to be educated around type 1 diabetes in this setting. Coupling this with around half of people with type 1 having been told that they’re inactive or lazy because of their type 1 diabetes (46%) or that people with type 1 aren’t able to be physically active (48%), there is a clear need for wider education and awareness of the condition in this sector.
This evidence, and our work as part of the type 1 community, has given us a great opportunity to lean on the insight we’ve gleaned to inform future practice across the physical activity sector and drive greater impact for people with type 1. Most people with type 1 diabetes undertake some level of physical activity and we want to positively impact on making that easier to do.
We’re working alongside key partners to address the education gap and have already developed the Diabetes and Football Guidelines alongside Diabetes UK, The Diabetes Football Community and the Football Association of Wales (FAW) to support coaches and facilitators of football with a basic understanding of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We now hope to roll this guidance out to other national governing bodies in sport as well as physical activity providers, such as gyms and leisure centres, and physical education settings such as schools and colleges.
We’re always striving to improve the provision of educational resources to cover the themes identified by the type 1 community, where support is required. We’re working closely with EXTOD (an organisation that supports people with type 1 to do exercise) and healthcare professionals, as well as experts with lived experience, to ensure we can provide those living with type 1 with as much knowledge as possible.
We’ve updated our exercise and physical activity information on our website, including lots of personal stories from people with type 1 on a variety of sports and physical activities. We’ve focused on sports and exercise at our in-person and virtual Discovery Days, with more planned for the future, and our Sports Day community event which we run every summer.
From my personal experiences, I know the challenge of both a lack of education and the need to know as much about type 1 management around physical activity as possible, to ensure I’m able to participate in sport, as well as manage the physical movement associated with everyday life. This evidence really does help us to influence the future.
Whether you’re walking the dog, ballet dancing or training for a marathon, learn how to manage your glucose levels and insulin intake for exercising.
Our guide to managing type 1 diabetes gives you information and support on how to manage your blood glucose levels, count carbs and deal with hypos and hypers.
Our free events offer a great opportunity to meet others with type 1 diabetes. Hear from leading experts, explore type 1 tech and take part in discussions groups on a wide variety of topics.
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Our research is improving the lives of people with type 1 and making strides towards a cure. We’ll keep pushing until we make type 1 diabetes a thing of the past.