Pilot proves a winner against diabetes

Gerald and dog Lulu have enjoyed the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Gerald and dog Lulu have enjoyed the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Dropping three jean sizes, cutting down on medication and having a much healthier pet.

They were just some of the achievements people with diabetes enjoyed after taking part in a pilot health programme.

Developed by Live Borders and NHS Borders, the innovative pilot combined tailored physical activity, psychological support and nutritional guidance to those managing Type 2 diabetes.

Many who took part in the recently completed, six-month plan in central Borders said they had lost weight, took less pills and were more mobile.

Now, due to the success of the programme, new diabetes-specific exercise classes have been created and the partnership aims to expand the project to all areas of the Borders.

Gerald Knight from Galashiels was one of the 11 people who took part.

He said: “It has been great. I feel physically and mentally better than I have for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the twice weekly sessions, especially the social side of it which to me is as important as any physical benefits.

“As a result of the increased confidence and general improvement in my overall well-being, I have started going to Aquafit at Galashiels Swimming Pool.

“My medication has also been cut from six tablets a day to four.

“Another welcome side effect is that, due to my walking more, even my dog has lost weight so it’s doing her good as well!”

The project consisted of a twice-weekly exercise sessions at Tweedbank Sports Centre and a monthly health behavioural change session at Borders General Hospital education centre.

Participants also had full access to Live Borders sports facilities so they could increase their physical activity in their own time.

Dr Olive Herlihy, consultant physician at NHS Borders, said: “Physical activity and healthy eating is pivotal in the management of Type 2 diabetes, not just in terms of improving blood sugar control but also in improving physical and psychological well-being.

“This programme has benefited the patients greatly so we now hope to expand the programme in other areas.

“The collaboration with Live Borders has improved our knowledge of exercise facilities locally and I hope we can continue to work together for the benefit of our patients.”

Paul Davis, health and physical activity development officer at Live Borders, said: “The pilot study’s results are extremely encouraging.

“Many of the participants have seen not only physical health benefits from exercise but improvements in their mental health too.

“The support offered by healthcare professionals as well as the newly forged relationships developed with others taking part in the programme was vital to its success.

“Not only could this programme directly lower the costs associated with treating diabetes, but it’s also really poignant that the programme has demonstrated the ability to reduce distress suffered by patients by 45 per cent.”

Kelso’s Sumati Bala, who also took part in the trial, said: “The project has given many expected and hoped-for results, including a reduction in inches although not necessarily weight.

“But I would take fewer inches anytime!

“What I hadn’t expected was that I would become more mobile.

“At 4’11” most things are out of my reach. Before the programme I would step on a stool, then climb onto a chair to reach a shelf in the bathroom; recently I stepped onto the chair without the benefit of a stool and down again without thinking!

“It’s small things that seem trivial but actually make a big difference to me.”

Fellow participant John Polettie from Newstead said: “The project was thoroughly enjoyable and I never thought I’d say that about physical activity!

“From the first day to the last I’ve enjoyed each and every session.

“This project really highlighted how much I needed to change my life and I couldn’t have done it without the instructors and the rest of the participants.

“The social element of the project has been just as beneficial as the physical.

“I’ve managed to feel more in control of my condition, and dropped three jean sizes.

“I’d strongly recommend this project to anyone who is looking to make a much-needed lifestyle change.”

Visit www.liveborders.org.uk/healthylivesreferral.