While monitoring a healthy diet is critical for managing blood sugar and insulin levels in diabetic patients, regular physical exercise shouldn't be ignored. Diabetes can often be associated with being overweight, which can cause joint pain and further weight gain that worsens the disease. The American Diabetes Association recommended physical activity for diabetes patients to consistently lower blood glucose levels, decrease health risks and improve balance to prevent falls.
For patients to understand the importance of exercise for managing diabetic symptoms, a research team from the University of Utah Health developed an app to motivate Type 2 diabetes patients to get regular physical activity. To test the application, the researchers launched a website and measured the users' understanding of the importance of physical activity as well as any changes in their level of motivation. The results were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
How it worked
The users started by entering basic health information, which included their blood sugar value. The app then presented them with their blood sugar curve, and prompted them to predict how 30 minutes of exercise could change the values. They had options to change how long and when the exercise is performed to make further predictions. Finally, the program disclosed the actual changes caused by different periods of physical activity. While the researchers thought the participants would underestimate the changes, they actually often overestimated them. Interestingly, they found the users' motivation still increased. The researchers believe the reason for this was because their beliefs in the positive effects of exercise were confirmed.
The researchers believe the application can be used to help visualize the positive effects of exercise. Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, Ph.D., M.P.H, research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and co-author on the study, described the power of this new tool: "Sitting is the new smoking, but our technology empowers patients to understand how exercise improves their health."
Plus, because patients can test multiple times of day and lengths of exercise, it helps them confidently determine the ideal workout routine catered to their personal blood sugar levels. Previous research has shown benefits to this kind of personalized treatment, for both monitoring the disease and managing finances. Once they know when and for how long, they can focus on the type of workout. Everyday Health suggested moderate walking, tai chi, light weight training, stress-reducing yoga, swimming and biking for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association highlighted aerobic exercise and strength training as the most important types of physical activity.
The researchers hope to continue improving the technology for a reliable educational tool with an even more personalized experience of comprehensive blood sugar, glucose and activity monitoring.