Research aims to help patients with Type 1 diabetes to exercise safely

People with Type 1 diabetes in the West Midlands are invited to test and develop an education programme on diet and exercise safety, which can be key to managing their blood glucose levels.  

diabetes

According to figures from Public Health England, about 350,000 people in UK live with Type 1 diabetes (T1DM). Exercise is an important part of the management plan in people with T1DM.

Regular exercise improves physical fitness and strength, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and death rates and improves well-being in people with T1DM. Based on this evidence, Diabetes UK recommends people with T1DM should undertake at least 150 min per week of exercise.

In spite of these benefits, studies show that less than four in 10 people with T1DM regularly exercise. Common reasons cited are fear that their blood sugar will go too low and lack of knowledge as to what to eat and how to change their insulin dosages when exercises.

Research has shown that 96% of people with T1DM say education about diet and exercise safety is important – but just 20% feel they have received this information, and some healthcare professionals even admit to feeling unsure how to advise people.

To tackle this, researchers at the University of Birmingham, Exeter and Leicester have developed an education programme – and they need volunteers to help test it.

“This study will support people with T1DM to adjust their insulin and carbohydrate intake to undertake safe and effective physical exercise,” explains Dr Parth Narendran, a Reader in Diabetes Medicine within the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research.

“While people with T1DM are aware they need to exercise, they often find this difficult because of the swings this causes in their glucose levels. These swings can include dangerously low blood glucose levels.

“If this study is shown to be effective, it will be rolled out into a national programme so that all people with Type 1 diabetes can have access to this education.”

The researchers want to recruit 96 people with T1DM for a randomised controlled trial – half to test the new programme, and half who will get an update on carbohydrate counting (DAFNE – or equivalent carb-counting course).

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, will be run from Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, Somerset, and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. 

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