Being Active

  To Me DIABETES Means: Captain Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis

D for Dad & Mom: I learned about this disease from my mother, who had Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at age 14. My father had Type 2 and was diagnosed at age 45. Both would regularly check their blood sugars. My father had very consistent numbers while my mothers would fluctuate constantly. Her doctor described her as a "brittle diabetic" and it was not uncommon for one of us three sons to find her passed out on the floor. When I was little, I remember telling others that my mommy was sick and she took mayonnaise (orinase) for her illness.

I for It can’t happen to me: I worked out, I tried to eat right, and I thought “It won’t happen to me.”  At the age of 40 I was diagnosed with diabetes. What a blow, here I was certain that when my younger brother was diagnosed, I would not. Then the doctor told me “you are diabetic.”

A for Affects all of my body: Things were going along very well, I was trying to keep my diabetes under control by working out, lifting weights, and running. I had a goal of going to the FBI National Academy, a 10 week leadership school for Law Enforcement Supervisors. The National Academy involves academics, nutrition, leadership, law, and exercise, culminating in a 6 mile run. I was scheduled to attend, and during the prerequisite echocardiogram I was told there may be a problem ... but having only 13% body fat at age 45, hopefully it was congenital, and not to worry. One week later, I was told that partially due to my diabetes, I had 5 blockages and needed a quadruple bypass. A week after that, I had the surgery. I was devastated.

B for Blood Sugar Checks & Being Responsible with Meds: I check my blood sugars often, up to five times a day. You see, I was blessed enough to have doctors (both Cardiac, and Endocrinologist) and rehab people, who told me I was not limited by my diabetes. They told me to keep rock climbing, rappelling, scuba diving, backpacking, canoeing, teaching, working at our Christian Camp, and working on challenge courses, and etc. And yes, I finished the FBI National Academy and completed the 6 mile run. It is great to have medical staff that do not limit you and tell you what you cannot do, but rather encourage you, suggesting ideas and teaching you how to monitor while doing the activities you love. Each medical person advised me to take it a little easier, check my blood sugars often, and follow a strict diet.

Being responsible means others in my outdoor adventure groups are given a lesson on my diabetes and heart disease and what to look for if problems should develop. I have never needed to have help.

E for Eating Right & Education: I have learned, with the help of dieticians and others, that following my medication schedule is only part of the journey for me. Eating right and adjusting my calories before and during strenuous prolonged outdoor activities is also important . . . Always keeping a snack nearby helps during those low blood sugar times.

Seeking proper education is also important. There are far too many myths and rumors about diabetes, its cause, and cures. Proper education helps you make the right decisions.

T for Telling Others: My wife and I have had the opportunity to run our Christian Camp, for the last two years, and you should see the relief on a parents face when they drop off their child who has diabetes. I explain that not only am I an E.M.T., I also have diabetes. The worry lessens and instantly there is a bond with their child. There is also a bond with others who have to be medicated or be on special diets such as those who have Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.

E for Encouragement: Again, I am blessed with a Heart Surgeon, Cardiologist, Heart Rehab team, and Endocrinologist, all who have encouraged me. I guess it is best summed up by the sign in my doctor’s office, that says “I am not a diabetic, I am an INDIVIDUAL with diabetes. I am not defined by a disease.” I seek family, friends and others around me who do not sulk and gripe about what they cannot do, and seek to surround myself with those who see themselves as individuals who are not defined by a disease and are excited about what they can do. My family is the most supportive of my many outdoor adventures and understanding my diabetes and heart disease. I have a great group of friends who are also encouragers.  

S for Support:  Since being diagnosed with diabetes, I was able to complete the 10 week FBI National Academy; I rappelled 800 feet twice (the second year my family and I took the only deaf person to ever complete that rappel); and I continue to not only participate in but also facilitate caving, hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, backpacking, canoeing, challenge courses, and several other outdoor leadership activities. I am an adjunct faculty member at two local Christian Universities, and have been the director of a Christian Camp for the past two summers. I also hold down a job as a Captain at our local Police Department.

God has given my wife and me two beautiful grand children, and number three is on the way as we anxiously wait. We have wonderful friends and I am blessed to be able to serve Him every day. We have a great family and four wonderful kids and the best way I know to stay around the longest to enjoy all this, is to practice care of my DIABETES!

In addition to his love of the great outdoors, Jeff enjoys cooking, and preparing gourmet, gluten free meals, for his son and daughter who have Celiac disease. He teaches women's self defense classes, and Outdoor Leadership at two Universities, and encourages his students to move into their "stretch zone" by participation in activities that make them think and reflect. His creative energy keeps everyone guessing! Jeff has an undergraduate degree in Religious Education, a Masters in Outdoor Education, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. 


 Diabetes: Dad & Mom; It can't happen to me; Affects all of my body: Blood Sugar Checks & Being Responsible; Eating Right & Education; Telling Other; Encouragement; Support


Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risks, contribute to weight loss, and improve well being. Exercise may also prevent Type 2 diabetes in high risk individuals. Structured exercise interventions of at least 8 weeks duration have been shown to lower A1C an average of 0.66% in people with Type 2 diabetes, even in the absence of decrease in BMI. Higher levels of exercise intensity are associated with greater improvement in A1C and fitness.   

Staying Active Helps You: 

Lower blood pressure
Lower blood glucose
Lower bad cholesterol (LDL)
Raise HEALTHY cholesterol (HDL)
Decrease insulin resistance
Manage Weight
Strengthen bones and muscles
Increase energy levels
Decrease stress  

Physical Activity Recommendations

150 min/week (22 Min a day) moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity 
   At 50 to 70% of maximum heart rate

Resistance training 3 times a week when there are no contraindications  

Before You Start: 

Ask your Doctor how much activity you can safely do.
Choose a activity you ENJOY doing
Set a realistic Goal that you know you can achieve
Then: Gradually increase your activity level 

Reference: American Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Recommendations, 2010



Tool Box


Being Active: AADE Video Overview

AADE7: Being Active Handout Diabetes: Keeping Active: NIH Medline Plus

Diabetes: Keeping Active: NIH Medline Plus

Diabetes and Exercise: NIH Medline Plus

Incorporating Exercise into a Busy Life: Diabetes Health

Managing Diabetes by Being Active: Novo

How Much Physical Activity Do You Need? Center for Disease Control

Death by TV? Diabetes Health

Five Things Every Person with Diabetes Should Know About Exercise: Diabetes Health

Exercise Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Teens: Diabetes Health

Walking Into Your Nineties: Diabetes Health

American Heart Association says "Get off your Duff and Exercise!" Diabetes Health

Moderate Exercise Can Stave off Metabolic Syndrome: Diabetes Health

Exercise Suppresses Appetite by Affecting Appetite Hormones: dLife

Increasing Insulin Sensitivity: How Exercise Helps: Diabetes Self-Management

Erase Your Mistakes with Exercise, and Other Secrets: Diabetes Health

Antidote to Guilt about Not Doing Enough Exercise is a HIT: Diabetes Health

Getting Active, Staying Healthy: Improve Beta Cell Function? Diabetes Forecast

Running Circles Around the Turtles: Own Your Journey One Run at a TimeTM

Changing Your Exercise Routine: FUN Fitness for EVERY Body: Diabetes Forecast

Exercise Strategies:

Pedometer Could Cut Type 2 Diabetes Risk by Half: Diabetes Health

Leg Exercises for People with Diabetes: Novo

Get Moving With Yoga: Diabetes Self-Management

Yoga the Stealth Health Booster: dLife

Once Sneered Vibrating Exercise Machines Help with Weight: Diabetes Health

Exercise Strategies for Keeping Weight Off During the Holidays: Diabetes Health

Aerobic and Resistance Exercise: Good Alone, but Best Together: Diabetes Health

Diabetes and Exercise: Exercising with Physical Disabilities: dLife

Exercise Often Raises Blood Glucose in Type 1 Diabetes: Diabetes Health


America on the Move

Fit 4D: Personalized Diabetes Coaching

Get Fit Tennessee

DESA: Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association

Lifelong Exercise Institute

Are you an Athlete with Diabetes? Then you need this Book: Diabetes Health Part I

Are you an Athlete with Diabetes? Then you need this Book: Diabetes Health Part II

Local Fare:

Hoop Tonic: Hoop Dancing


The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes No Matter Your Weight

by Sheri R. Colberg, PhD