Wellness program encourages walking, talking about diabetes

Cedar Hill Rec Walk and Talk sessions start March 29

Knowledge, wellness and community come together under the umbrella of an expanding program simply called Walk and Talk.

Walk and Talk is a free, eight­week program offering those with diabetes information about care and prevention, an opportunity to get out and exercise and a little camaraderie.

The program maintains what the Canadian Diabetes Association does well, sharing research and providing healthcare professionals while building community, said  Penny Murray, Canadian Diabetes Association branch co-ordinator for Vancouver Island.

“Connecting with others is important. … Studies are showing social connection is as big an indicator in longevity as diet and exercise,” Murray said.

The program is geared for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes and caregivers or partners. “The walk and talk program started last year and it was a huge success. They had about 80 to 100 people attend at the Cedar Hill Rec Centre,” said Oak Bay resident Caroline Macey-Brown, consultant with Canadian Diabetes Association.

“We start the event with a different expert every week in some aspect of diabetic wellness.”

Each session includes a short informative talk by a local health and wellness specialist, followed by a walk.

Topics will include: tips to get motivated; healthy eating; foot care; emotional wellbeing; understanding blood sugar; medications and other health concerns.

“After the talk we break into groups based on levels of ability and we go for group walks. the whole goal is to get people moving and to create a sense of community,” said Macey-Brown.

“They get out and get moving. The emphasis is on companionship, learning and movement, and the importance of movement in all of our lives. And that exercise doesn’t need to be vigorous, as long as we exercise a little bit every day we we can be very healthy.”

From personal experience, Macey-Brown says her father was a 40-year type one diabetic and a doctor told him he needed to walk a mile twice a day.

“He was religious about it and he lived to be over 90 and he was a very healthy person living with diabetes, yet he was on two to three injections a day.”

Walk and Talk was so successful last year that Victoria Foundation offered a grant that afforded expansion from Cedar Hill to Juan de Fuca Rec Centre and Tall Tree Health Centre in Cordova Bay.

“A key theme this year is emotional wellness, this really affects people with many chronic diseases, not just diabetes. It really is a new topic to be addressed, it’s not something that has been addressed very well in any topic of our society,” said Macey-Brown. “If you tell somebody they’re going to be injecting themselves two or three times a day for the rest of their lives, they’re bound to get a little depressed. It’s about learning to live well with a chronic condition.”

Also, UVic student Samantha Gray, who did an exercise research study featured in the Oak Bay News last fall, is helping develop the walk part of the program.

“I went for a walk with her and she had some real insights from a research perspective. She’s going to come on one of the walks and be a leader,” said Murray. “She’s putting some of her findings into practice with us. It’s really enriching my program.”

Sessions start this week at all three sites and registration is free. Go online to diabetes.ca/WalkandTalkVictoria or call 250-382-5454 ext. 222 to register.