As I prepared to take a group of clients up the 105-mile West Highland Way in 2022, I was made aware that one of my clients had Type 1 diabetes. This was the sixth time I had walked this trail, so I was fully aware of the rigours of the walk, but it was the first time I had guided a person with Type 1 diabetes. Research from the University of Sunderland matches what I experienced.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a condition in which the body is unable to produce enough insulin, which is needed to regulate blood sugar levels. People with Type 1 diabetes often have to monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day and take insulin injections to keep their levels in check. This can be a time-consuming and often frustrating process, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.
However, a recent study by the University of Sunderland has found that 'activity snacking', which involves short bursts of physical activity throughout the day, can help people with Type 1 diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels.
'Activity snacking' involves short bursts of physical activity throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing a few minutes of stretching or yoga during a break, or going for a short walk after a meal. These activities do not require a lot of time or effort but can add up to a significant amount of physical activity over the course of a day.
The benefits of 'Activity snacking' are not limited to people with Type 1 diabetes. Previous studies have shown that activity snacking can help to reduce the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the general population. It is also an effective way to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting, which has been linked to a range of health problems.
I can vouch for the above research from my experience guiding somebody with Type 1 diabetes up the West Highland Way. It was around Day 2 of the walk before the client started to find the right balance between her insulin and walking.
The morning porridge was a disaster and sent her readings through the roof. So she resorted to a cooked breakfast instead, which was a much more slow release food type.
At times during the walk, it felt like we were flying a hot air balloon. When flying a balloon, it can take some time before the balloon stops descending after giving it a burst of hot air. Similarly, it can take c.20 mins for insulin or the endless glucose tablets she had, to enter the human system and change the potential Hyper or Hypo state, both of which are critical.
While this body management is essential, it can impact the group who was walking with the person, who then have to stop for 15-20 mins . The group loses its momentum, can get frustrated and also starts to get cold. So management of diabetes is critical for the individual but also the group to function properly and enjoy the walk.
After four days of walking, I was starting to notice we did not need to stop as much. I asked her how it was going. She said that she had started to manage her situation better. But what was really interesting was that she said that her body had begun to manage itself better.
More amazingly, she was finding that she was using 50% less insulin each day than before the walk. Make your own deductions from that. It certainly matches what the University of Sunderland have seen.
If you have Type 1 diabetes, incorporating activity snacking into your daily routine may be an effective way to manage your blood sugar levels and improve your overall health. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about how to incorporate activity snacking into your diabetes management plan.
The study conducted by the University of Sunderland highlights the potential benefits of 'Activity snacking' for people with Type 1 diabetes. This simple and easy-to-implement strategy can help to improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, and other markers of metabolic health.
Maybe people with diabetes should be walking 20,000 steps a day.
Long periods of sitting time can be harmful to our health, even if you exercise regularly. But 'activity snacking' could offer people a simple, cost-free way to help manage their blood sugar levels and potentially reduce their risk of future complications. Previous research has shown that breaking up periods of sitting with short, frequent walks can help people with type 2 diabetes reduce their blood sugar levels and their risk of complications. This is because being active can increase the amount of glucose (sugar) used by muscles and can help the body to use insulin more effectively. But until now we haven’t known if people with type 1 diabetes could see the same benefits. Or if there could be any risks, such as having more hypos.