WHEN faced with the ­realities of how type 2 diabetes could drastically affect her health, Debbie Houston decided to get on her bike.

She has now vowed to pedal her way back to a fitter and better lifestyle.

The 48-year-old, from Erskine, is chief executive of the family run Dales Cycles in Glasgow and admits she is ashamed to say that, until now, she wasn't a cyclist.

She said: "I was asked by the health board to come along and speak about why cycling can benefit diabetes.

"To be honest, the fact I've got type 2 and don't really manage it very well, I decided to put my hand up and say, I should really practise what I preach."

Debbie has joined a group of more than 60 people with type 2 diabetes who have signed up for a project that will steer them in the direction of better health.

Organised by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons on Glasgow, the Beat Diabetes Challenge will offer motivational support, personal physical activity plans and free access to gyms and leisure facilities.

Debbie said: "It's a great way for me to focus on something. That meeting about a month ago was the wake-up call for me.

"I've been lucky, so far I've not had to go on medication.

"My sugar at the moment is higher than it should be, so I want to bring that back down to a more manageable level and get fitter."

She has vowed to explore the city's cycle paths with friends and colleagues in her bid to beat type 2 diabetes. And has already made changes to her diet.

She added: "Rather than grabbing food on the go, I'm taking lunches to work, drinking more water and avoiding sugary drinks.

"I knew all these things but when you hear the doctors telling you, you have to make that lifestyle change. Already I feel less sluggish and have more energy."

The Beat Diabetes Challenge in the latest link in our year-long Active 2014 campaign to improve the health of Scots in the year of the Commonwealth Games and build a lasting legacy of physical wellbeing.

Working with partners Glasgow Life and NHSGGC we'll be creating exciting opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to get active as we bid to improve the health of as many people as possible in the community.

The message of this campaign is that even the smallest of changes in activity and lifestyle can make a huge improvement in health.

Another recruit to the diabetes challenge is 49-year-old Evelyn Glass, a specialist rehabilitation nurse who works in Paisley.

She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes four years ago and says she felt compelled to take action when she discovered her blood sugar was higher than usual on her last check up.

She said: "I see the complications of diabetes every day in my work and I knew I had to change my lifestyle to improve my health.

"I've been going on jog walk sessions, and have encouraged my daughters to come out with me. I jog and walk for one minute, 10 times, it's small steps but it all helps.

"Already I can feel a difference. I live in a flat and I notice even going up the stairs, I bound up them now."

Back in January, Evelyn joined Slimming World and since then has lost two stones.

She added: "I've been cutting back on sugary food, eating more fruit and reducing my fat intake.

"In work we always have sweets sitting on the table, so now everyone brings in fruit. I've now discovered I like red berries and strawberries, I have them every morning with yoghurt, whereas before I had a sugary cereal."

Dr Frank Dunn, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, hopes people taking part in the Beat Diabetes Challenge will be able to take less or even stop their medication, feel a lot better and significantly improve life expectancy.

He added: "We're very excited about this, as often these projects have a ripple effect. Other people see the positive outcomes and say, we can do that as well. That's what we're hoping, to extend the inspiration.

"We are looking for fairly straightforward outcomes: weight loss, improvement in blood sugar and other measurements of diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol."

Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHSGGC director of public health, points to evidence which shows that by making changes in your daily routine you can manage diabetes to the point where medication can be reduced.

She said: "We hope this group of people who want to get more physically active in the run up to the Commonwealth Games can inspire many others to take on this challenge."

angela.mcmanus@ eveningtimes.co.uk