Diabetes NSW & ACT and Fitbit program is helping local diabetics Get Fit for Life

It is National Diabetes week this Sunday, July 12 to Saturday, July 18, and Fitbit, along with Diabetes NSW & ACT, are highlighting the hardwork some locals have put in to 'Get Fit for Life'.

Diabetes NSW & ACT and Fitbit came together to create a joint program for 30 participants aged over 50-years-old with Type 2 diabetes from South Windsor and the Hawkesbury region.

Get fit: Participants of the Get Fit For Life campaign that was run at South Windsor's Greater West Exercise Physiology. Picture: Supplied.

Get fit: Participants of the Get Fit For Life campaign that was run at South Windsor's Greater West Exercise Physiology. Picture: Supplied.

The participants engaged in an eight-week health and exercise program hosted at South Windsor's Greater West Exercise Physiology.

The free to join program ran twice a week over an eight-week period, starting in March and finishing in May.

Participants worked with exercise physiologists completing a number of strength based exercises including weights to manage blood glucose levels and were encouraged to increase aerobic exercise through walking to help establish a more active lifestyle.

North Richmond's 62-year-old Gary Lewis participated in the program after being diagnosed with diabetes nearly 12-months-ago and has since lost 20-25 kilograms since beginning the diagnosis.

Gary's incredible hard work has led to a smaller waist circumference, an improvement in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and an increase in overall strength.

"The program was better than I expected it to be," said Gary. "I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after getting a check-up becuase my mother had it and it was underlying in my sister.

"The doctors were good and put me onto Diabetes Australia who then led me to joining Diabetes NSW who run various programs for it's members, including how to monitor you blood.

"I came across this woman who was talking about this program and thought that it would be a good thing to try."

Rebecca Hannon, an accredited exercise physiologist at Greater West Exercise Physiology ran the program and designed it for each individual.

"Rebecca designed the program," said Gary. "The program started out with very basic exercises and I found it a bit easy in the beginning. But I found that I was jumping the gun on the program a bit and they wanted to see what we could do.

"We were then given individual programs and told that while we complete the program we would have to wear Fitbit's 24/7.

"At first I thought it would be strange wearing all the time, even to bed, but it was really good and helpful in the end."

The participants were each provided with Fitbit Inspire HR's to track their activity, sleep and 24/7 heart rate.

"The Fitbit was very useful," said Gary. "It would monitor what you were doing and measure your heart rate, which was good.

"A lot of the advice we are given is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day and the Fitbit's made it so easy to that.

"I work in an office so I don;t get a lot of opportunity to walk but you make the effort when you are reminded of the information right there on your wrist.

"And monitoring my sleeping pattern was great because even if I thought I had a good sleep the Fitbit would tell me I had been restless for a lot of the night which is good to learn."

Motivated: Gary Lewis prior to his incredible wieght-loss under the Diabetes NSW & ACT and Fitbit program at Greater West Exercise Physiology. Picture: Supplied.

Motivated: Gary Lewis prior to his incredible wieght-loss under the Diabetes NSW & ACT and Fitbit program at Greater West Exercise Physiology. Picture: Supplied.

Gary's original program consisted of 15 minutes on a treadmill, then weight and strength exercises, and using the row machine.

"We now do more strength based work, lifting weights," he said. "The program has definitely helped with my health. The program was targeted at injuries and the pain I experience now is less then what it was previously.

"Before the program I had some back pains and they disappear for a lot of the time. I am down in belt sizes and have lost around 20-25 kilograms since I was first diagnosed."

Motivation was one of Gary's biggest battles during the program.

"Getting up to workout at 8 am in the Hawkesbury, when it's cold is difficult, but I just kept pushing myself," he said.

"Long-term I want to have my health looked after and it's only and hour workout, so I just get down there and do it.

"When we workout in a group I am definitely more motivated. I see people who are have more mobility problems then I do and it motivates me to do what I need to do.

"If they can do it, then it wouldn't look good if I pulled out. There is no super fit people there, everyone is of a similar age and mobility which is good, so no one is showing anyone else up.

With the arrival of COVID-19 restrictions, Greater West Exercise Physiology was forced to close its doors so participants were then given an online at-home program to follow twice a week incorporating similar exercises with minimal equipment.

"The lockdown coincided with my birthday, so when people wanted to get me things I told them to buy weights and equipment so I could do the workouts at home," said Gary.

"The motivation was different because you were by yourself but you still had to push through.

"The program is great and anyone with diabetes should take advantage of it. It motivated me to keep going and it is worth while when you know you're bettering yourself doing this."

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