Hamilton man Steve Harvey, 52, knew he faced serious health problems after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and it would start affecting his life badly if he didn’t take action quickly.

Steve is one of around 240,000 people in New Zealand living with diabetes and with 40 new diagnoses every day, this number is likely to more than double in the next 20 years.

On the way home from a doctor’s appointment Steve stopped at the Hamilton YMCA after hearing it offered fitness classes for bigger individuals and thought he’d give it a shot.

“It was pure luck that I walked in just five minutes before a Jumpstart class was beginning and decided to join in,” said Steve.

“I had never heard of Jumpstart. After literally walking off the street and into the programme I’ve attended weekly, when it’s running, as well as joined the gym. I’ve also got a bad knee and osteoarthritis and Jumpstart has helped me get my health back,” says Steve.

Jumpstart was established in 2015 by the YMCA and healthcare company Pharmaco (NZ) Limited and provides exercise, nutrition and lifestyle education for people with diabetes, or those who are pre-diabetic.

Now onboard, a healthier lifestyle has taken off for Steve. He has gone through two Jumpstart programmes and is making good progress managing his type 2 diabetes as well as his other health issues.

Steve has worked as an orderly at Waikato Hospital for over twenty years and enjoys his role, but his ability to do his job and support his family was at risk.

More than a year after his first Jumpstart programme, Steve has lost a lot of weight, 9.4 kgs in the last three months. His goals are to continue going to the gym regularly and working towards an even better weight in 2018, after joining a cardio and reflex class and starting his third Jumpstart programme.

Steve gives credit to Emily Morris, Rei Manawaiti and the others in the Jumpstart group for making him feel, for the first time in his life, that he belongs in a gym.

Jumpstart coordinator Emily says she has “watched Steve’s confidence grow and seen him slowly trust the process and that everyone’s journey is different”.

“He has embraced and laughed at my creative ways in helping him find himself again – from playing games like ‘tag’, hip-hop dancing, setting goals, long chats, choosing your own exercises and learning that you are in control of your own health”.

These personal exercise curriculums make working out more engaging and feel more like fun rather than a chore.

When asked what he likes most about Jumpstart, Steve says: “rather than being programme focused, it focuses on the individual and there’s so much support around you.”

Steve now goes to the gym five times a week and is supported by his two sons, ages 17 and 20, who also regularly join him, as well as his 12 year old daughter, making it a family effort to live healthier.

“One of my sons came up to me and said ‘I’m really proud of you dad’ and that was the best feeling in the world”, Steve says. “I’m very grateful for how far I’ve come and couldn’t have done it without all the people around me.”

“Jumpstart has introduced me to exercises and equipment I never would have heard of or used before.” He enthusiastically comments “come to Jumpstart, it works!”

Jumpstart runs four programmes a year. The programme has helped over 950 people in the last three years and operates at 14 YMCAs across the country.

Common results from the programme include weight loss, lower waist measurements and blood pressure, improved mental health and confidence about a healthy future. The weekly sessions help get people moving, no matter their size. For people who are pre-diabetic, exercise and lifestyle programmes, like Jumpstart, can help delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.