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Home > Knowledge & support > Resource hub > When I was diagnosed with type 1, fitness took on a whole new meaning
After I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I quickly learned that it wasn’t a life sentence, but rather just a part of life.
It was just a few days before Christmas in 2015 that my symptoms started. A seemingly unquenchable thirst had sprung out of nowhere. I distinctly remember drinking water, pint after pint, far beyond anything that would be considered normal. At first, I didn’t take much notice, but after around a week or so of excessive thirst and disturbed sleep as a result of the never-ending bathroom trips, it was time to call the doctor.
A few hours later I was sitting in the doctor’s surgery getting weighed and having my finger pricked so my blood glucose could be tested. It was 23 mmol/L and I had lost nearly 2 stone. The GP was certain it was type 1 diabetes but sent me straight to the hospital for confirmation. Sure enough, it was, and I was swiftly taught the basics on finger prick testing and injecting insulin.
It was daunting. Being thrown into a world of lifetime diabetes management wasn’t something I had ever imagined and certainly wasn’t something I knew much about. Luckily, I had support from my diabetic nurse who was always willing to answer email queries and take calls. But the new diagnosis was on my mind nearly all the time. So, I immersed myself in the online type 1 community to learn all I could about the condition.
The wealth of information and shared experiences provided by other people living with type 1 from around the world was very reassuring. I read about people with type 1 from all walks of life – athletes, movie stars, lawyers, doctors, and even a Prime Minister. To see real people not only coping but thriving with type 1 was a relief, but more-so, inspiring.
Having been a dancer in my childhood and teenage years, I had always had to stay fit. Now with type 1, the importance of fitness took on a whole new meaning. Seeing first-hand the effect exercise had on my blood sugars and insulin intake every day was eye-opening. I found that exercise improved my insulin sensitivity, and I was able to improve my blood glucose management. This made me take working out more seriously than I had before. I now weight train four or five days a week and aim for at least 30-60 minutes of steady state cardio every day.
Although type 1 diabetes doesn’t stop me from working out, there are some important considerations I discovered. While most forms of exercise will lower blood sugar levels, in my experience high intensity training such as heavy weightlifting increased them. So I have to tailor how much I eat and how much insulin I take beforehand to counter the effects of the particular workout I am doing.
I also use a flash glucose sensor to closely monitor my current blood glucose and its trend. While I have developed a much better understanding of my body and how different things can affect my blood glucose levels, it is nice to know that my flash sensor will alert me if my level drops below my pre-defined limit.
Along with the many physical benefits, exercise can have a big impact on mental health. For me, it’s the best eliminator of stress and just makes me feel good. Although it may sound counterintuitive, exercise can give you energy. Outside of the gym, I feel more productive and content knowing I’m sticking to my workout schedule, which has benefits when it comes to business.
Like with so many others, type 1 diabetes is not a barrier for doing what I want to in work or business. I started my company, Workout For Less, with the belief that everyone should be able to reach their fitness goals. I regularly post on the company blog about various type 1 topics to share my experiences and help others, as others helped me.
“The long-term health benefits of screening outweigh the short-term stress” – Cerilyn tells us about her experience of finding out her daughter is in the early stages of developing type 1.
Rebekah’s story: “I had no idea that having one autoimmune condition makes you more at risk of getting others”
"Type 1 doesn't get in the way of my sports at all. It's something I just try and manage as best I can."
Maddie Bonser, JDRF's Research Operations Officer, talks about growing up with a brother who has type 1.