County Durham woman improves her diabetes with the help of exercise

A retired civil servant was able to improve her diabetes in just six months after taking part in a variety of healthy activities

Carol Parker has transformed her health with Move4Life activities
Carol Parker has transformed her health with Move4Life activities

A grandmother beat diabetes in just six months after her community centre was transformed into a hub of healthy activities.

For seven years, Carol Parker had been trying to bring her sugar levels under control after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

The 62-year-old had suffered high cholesterol and high blood pressure for over a decade and had been prescribed statins and beta blockers to help with her health complications.

But after taking up a range of Move4Life activities on offer at her local community centre in Bowburn, County Durham, including walking, New Age Kurling and NIA, a form of dance – in just six months her doctor was impressed by her transformation and hopes she could soon be able to reduce and even stop taking her medication.

As well as feeling physically fitter, Carol, who moved to Bowburn in Durham two years ago and recently retired as a civil servant, has also made new friends and feels her life has greatly improved.

“I’ve been taking medication, but my conditions weren’t really improving and I wasn’t able to get my levels down” said Carol.

“Now in just six months they have completely turned around. My blood sugar levels are normal, my cholesterol is 3.8 and my blood pressure 125/72 and my resting pulse 48. I have probably lost around half a stone too.

“When I went to the GP for a check-up he couldn’t believe it and asked what I had been doing differently. I am going back later this month when they are going to reassess my medication and hopefully I will be able to reduce my statins and beta blockers and even be able to come off them altogether.

“I wasn’t on medication for my diabetes, but I was worried about what the long-term effects may be.

“Thanks to the programme of activities in Bowburn my transition into retirement has been a joy and I love my life, it’s brilliant!”

Carol who has two grown-up daughters and four grandchildren, exercises five days a week by taking part in all the activities on offer at the centre.

She started off by joining the walking group, hiking over fields and stiles every Monday. She then joined in New Age Kurling and Nia, a gentle form of dance. There is also a gym and cycling group.

“Physically I feel healthier, but it is also about the general health and wellbeing, these activities offer the complete package,” she added.

“When I moved to Bowburn I didn’t know many people locally and when I retired I was worried there wouldn’t be many activities on offer for me nearby. This has been brilliant for me.

“I had never even heard of Kurling before. There is a lot of walking, bending and moving, but is really fun so you don’t feel like you are exercising.

“Now I have met some wonderful people. We go to quizzes together and are planning a walking holiday to Northumberland. One lady lives just five doors from me but I had never met her before, now we are friends and go walking together.

“It has opened up a completely new world for me and I think it is a shame that more people are not taking advantage of the activities on offer, especially when they are right on your doorstep.”

Organised and delivered by Pioneering Care Partnership (PCP) Health Trainer Sheila Pinkney, supported by Health Trainer Champion Gavin Gettings, Bowburn Healthy hub is a new project funded by the local Area Action Partnership and County Durham Sport’s Move4Life programme.

The scheme is aimed at getting people more involved in their local community centre as well as improving health and wellbeing, especially those at risk from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

When Sheila took on the job in April last year there were no activities taking place in the community centre during the day. But, thanks to her hard work, word soon spread and now dozens of people are enjoying more active and happier lives.

“There was absolutely nothing going on during the day and I was basically sat in the centre on my own when it first started,” said Sheila.

“The first walking group had just two people. But, through word of mouth, more and more people are finding out about what we do here and it’s snowballed.

“The activities are suitable for all fitness levels. One member of the walking group huffed and puffed the first few times and said she had to go to bed when she got back but she finds it much easier now.

“We basically have a walk and a natter – we are like a social club that walk.

“It’s been a lifeline for some people here. We have a wide range of ages taking part in the activities. Our oldest is 76 and we also have members of the deaf community and wheelchair users joining in too.”

Andrew Power, strategic manager for physical activity for County Durham Sport, said: “Areas within County Durham have some of the lowest sport and physical activity participation levels in the country and this is reflected in the wide range of health inequalities in the area.

“The Move4Life programme, has been hugely successful in County Durham over the last three years helping over 15,000 people at risk of cardio vascular disease and type 2 Diabetes get more active through a range of local projects.”

The Journal collaborated with Nova International more than two years ago to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution. The campaign is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.

For further information about Move4Life activities, call 01325 321234 or email


David Whetstone
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