Coaches help combat fear of exercise through camp for kids with diabetes

A York University sports camp for youth with Type 1 diabetes is offering a groundbreaking approach to helping kids and their families learn to manage the disease.

Campers aged eight to 17 will focus on one sport − soccer, basketball or tennis – and receive instruction from a team of elite-level coaches and interuniversity athletes. Instruction for the diabetes sport camp, which runs until July 24, will take place in York’s state-of-the-art sport and recreation facilities with support from an experienced clinical diabetes team.

Participants’ blood glucose levels will be monitored throughout each day using new technology offered by Medtronic Canada, and participants will learn strategies to modify insulin and carbohydrate intake using guidelines published by the International Society for Paediatric & Adolescent Diabetes.

Left: Michael Riddell

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes rates are on the rise in Canada and evidence is mounting that regular exercise should be at the cornerstone of care for both forms of the disease. For children and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes involved in sport, managing their diabetes is particularly challenging.

“A fear of low blood sugar is a major barrier to sport participation for many of these kids and their parents,” says Michael Riddell, a world-renowned diabetes and exercise physiologist and professor in York’s Faculty of Health. “There is a great need to educate families how exercise can be used to help manage the disease.”

Riddell, himself diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 15, designed the camp based on his experiences developing the Diabetes Training Camp in the United States. His latest review article in the July issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology discusses the role of glucose monitoring using new technologies during exercise and sport in adult athletes with Type 1 diabetes.

The Diabetes Sports Camp is part of York’s new Physical Activity & Diabetes Initiative that will train health professionals in the areas of exercise physiology and behaviour change, while serving a growing community need to help young people to manage their disease. 

The centre will also house a Diabetes Clinic for exercise evaluation and lifestyle counselling for parents and children in the community as well as a Diabetes Research Lab that will be the lone Canadian centre of expertise on the effectiveness and impact of exercise intervention on diabetes.

For more information about the camp, visit Michael Riddell’s Web site.