Why Group Health? Members Say it Best

Controlling Diabetes With Exercise

Member

Majid HadjiMajid Hadji was overweight, out-of-shape, and struggling to keep his blood sugar under control when his doctor, Chris Covert-Bowlds, MD, prescribed exercise for his health.

"He told me I had to do something," says Hadji, who has type 2 diabetes. "We increased my medicine level — but it wasn't working. My blood sugar level was still very high."

That turned out to be the wake-up call that started Hadji on a healthier path. About a year after beginning a regular exercise program, his blood sugar is excellent, he's lost 30 pounds and 10 pant sizes — and he rode in the Group Health Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic, a 200-mile event.

"Majid had a history of being active. He just needed a good nudge to do the things he was thinking about," says Dr. Covert-Bowlds, a family physician at the Group Health Northshore clinic.

"He's doing the type of thing — biking — that a lot of people can do. Not everyone is going to bike as intensively as Majid, but most people can do some type of exercise that will make a huge difference in their health."

Hadji recently answered questions about how he turned his life around with exercise.

How did you get started?
In June, 2012, I tried to get on my bike, but it was so painful. I couldn't ride up the hill near my house. I was so angry that I went back home. But after two or three days, I started walking with my dog. Then, by accident, I found another solution. I bought a hybrid bike — with an electric motor — at an auction. That bike rescued my life.

How so?
I could get up the hill with the help of the bike. From August to November, I rode 2,000 miles on that electric bike. And guess what? In November when I went to the doctor, I'd lost weight and improved my blood sugar numbers. I retired that bike when I got lighter, and I fixed up an old road bike.

How did you stay motivated to keep exercising?
The scale motivated me. I lost weight every week, with a better diet and exercise. My son, who is 21, also helped me. He told me that we were going to do a ride together. We did the Chilly Hilly (on Bainbridge Island in February). It was my first event on a bike. I was able to do it, and my time wasn't bad.

How important is it to have a goal like the Chilly Hilly, or the STP?
It is important — but these are just rides. If you set a goal to do one, and then you reach it — then what? What's more important is your health — and not going blind or having kidney failure which can happen with diabetes.

How do you fit biking into your life?
I don't have time anymore to just hang out! During the week, I do some intensive hill biking — 25 or 35 miles. On weekends, I do longer rides. I do a lot of organized rides with the Cascade Bike Club. Every day I do something. I don't mind the rain, but if it is raining really hard, I have a stationary bike at home that I use.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start exercising?
It's important to find something you love. If you love it, you will do it and get better, and you'll love it more. Sitting on the couch and changing the channel on the TV — that's not the answer.

Anything else?
I want people to know that I didn't get to my level of biking easily. To go from not being able to bike up a hill, to biking 100 miles in a day is a long, long way to go. But you can do it. You don't have to be 100 percent healthy to do exercise and take control of your life.

Posted: June 2013

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