Storytellers – The Importance of Maintaining Muscle & Strength – Type 1 Diabetes Exercise Project Update

The presenter for the evening was Allan Bolton, club member and recognised authority in the areas of health and fitness.

A passionate Allan Bolton in full flight

A passionate Allan Bolton in full flight

At the past three ‘Summer of Fun – Self-improvement Sessions’ Allan has held such well received talks, that due to popular demand he kindly agreed to a repeat performance of his last SOF presentation at our meeting, the title being ‘Strength & muscle – who needs it?’

Allan last presented to the Storytellers back in 2014, regarding his internet based ‘How to Exercise with type 1 Diabetes’ website project. Allan provided a brief progress update after a milestone moment last year when researchers from The University of Sydney’s Medical School completed the Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise Randomised Controlled Trial of his exT1D Web-site.

Allan told us there are 130 – 140k Australians who have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that is mostly diagnosed in young people between ages 5 and 15 years and that it’s on the rise with 6 Australians being diagnosed each day. On the outside it’s not obvious that someone has type 1 diabetes but on the inside there are major metabolic challenges to overcome. Type 1 is a life sentence so just look out when a cure should be found as Allan will be fighting his way to the front of the queue!

He went on to explain that Type 1 diabetes has the highest management burden by far among chronic conditions in young people and explained some of the difficulties around exercise. Most people could plan an hour ahead if they decided, for example, to go for a paddle at Balmoral at 6:30pm, whilst he needs to plan well in advance starting about 1:30pm. He has had 38 years of this ‘planning ahead’ so it is nearly like being on auto pilot and is second nature.

The presentation mapped out the last ten years of Allan’s lifelong involvement with Type 1 exercise education.

  • In 2006 he presented in Victoria and expected to talk for one hour starting at 6:30pm to an audience of 40. The audience of 170 people with Type 1, all keen to hear something on the subject wouldn’t let him out of the building until 10:30pm. This was the final straw, something need to be done to help the Type 1 community on a broad scale and it seemed he was the only person willing to give it a go.
  • In 2007 he undertook a diabetes educator course at University and as he pointed out he learnt very little with respect to exercise and Type 1 diabetes, this further strengthened his resolve to develop resources for health care professionals working at the coalface.
  • In 2008 he was invited to present at a national diabetes science conference… when he finished everyone stood up and applauded with the sentiment ‘…finally, someone is doing something!’
  • In 2009 he built a website that delivers about 5-6 hours of targeted education using a range of multimedia.
  • In 2010 he launched the website, a common feedback theme from users was, ‘where has this been all my life?’.
  • In 2011 he was again invited to present at the Annual National Scientific meeting of the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) in Perth. There he met a PhD student to see if they could work together. After that the Sydney University got in touch. So began the 4 year Type 1 Diabetes and Exercise Randomised Controlled Trial of the exT1D Web-site.

When Allan last spoke to the BBC Storytellers he had managed to raise $120,000 of a target of $240,000. Eventually he reached his target by knocking on lots of doors despite getting lots of rejections. Since the very positive results were released last year they have been presented at national and international scientific meetings i.e., ADS Australia and International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver respectively.
The results have also been accepted for presentation at the American Diabetes Association Annual Scientific Meeting in June. No doubt there will be more to come as definitely Allan is a man on a mission!

After stretching our legs Allan moved on to his main presentation ‘Strength & muscle – who needs it?’

He fired some questions. Why do we exercise? To be fit and healthy. To prevent injury. So we can do the things we want to do.

What’s more important to each of us as we age? Being able to run a marathon or simply being able to get up off the toilet? He explained it is all relative but ideally we should place more importance on strength as we become older. It helps us maintain our independence. He spoke of the how technology is killing us nowadays. Gone are the days of bringing home a kangaroo over your shoulder to feed the family. We just don’t exercise anymore. Obviously there are exceptions. The BBC members who swim regularly are great examples of those who enjoy exercise, the races, the outdoors, the endurance benefits, but by and large there is limited weight training or resistance work.

As Allan emphasised his role isn’t to tell people what to do but he can make recommendations such as to do more resistance work and go to a gym. To lots of people gyms are an anathema, however, they have the equipment at hand that can deliver a high return on time invested. We should also do more co-ordination exercises. Whilst we may do exercise routines on a daily basis, for the rest of the day we are probably sitting either at a desk or in front of the television. He sets a good example, much to the frustration of visitors to his office, as he has a mobile standing desk, and to avoid varicose veins it moves around so he doesn’t stay in the one position.

Allan then explained the difference between exercise that is of sufficient intensity to trigger an anabolic hormonal response which is required for maintenance or building of strength and muscle mass as against aerobic (sustained exercises, as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, which stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilisation of oxygen) and threw into the mix sprint work as against endurance e.g. 2km swim, assuring Dick Morath that he couldn’t sprint for 2kms despite whatever he thought! Allan also explained the often underappreciated 24/7 calorie burning benefits that come with countering the muscle shrinking effects of age as well as the benefits of resistance training for increasing insulin sensitivity for people with or at risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Alan Phillips about to cross the finish line [see photo in slide]

Alan Phillips about to cross the finish line Noosa Triathlon 2015 [see photo in slide]

Allan finished by telling the story of a fellow club member, Alan Phillips, and how that by heeding some of Allan’s advice (3 sets of 6 weight exercises x 3 times per week) by investing 3 x 30 minutes (door to door) per week Alan reduced his Noosa triathlon time by 10 mins and thereby achieving his ‘podium finish’ goal in the 70+ age group at the 2015 Noosa Triathlon. He placed 2nd, in front of his mate Alex Hamill (3rd) for the first time ever. He is indebted to Allan for life!

Once again Allan provided a most entertaining and informative presentation.
Many thanks Allan … we’re all off to gym now!