Getting active and staying fit is one of the huge ongoing challenges of living with diabetes. Of course, non-D folks struggle with it too, but having a "manual pancreas" complicates things.
Not surprisingly, the industry and mHealth world have caught on and are creating a bevy of new technologies and programs designed to help us PWDs (people with diabetes) get organized and motivated about fitness.
Two interesting programs we've learned about recently are FitScript and Fit2Me, and of course we can't overlook all the news and excitement relating to FitBit these days.
FitScript - with the World's First D-Exercise Clinic
FitScript is a highly innovative program based in Connecticut that combines the use of online multi-media programming and in-person exercise training at a facility called the Diabetes Training Center in New Haven CT, touted as "the world's first exercise clinic dedicated exclusively to diabetes prevention and management."
As we understand it, they're trying to create "a new model for supporting exercise" by giving PWDs access to both high-quality digital media training materials, and an actual gym staffed with experts knowledgeable on diabetes. They work with everyone from serious athletes with type 1 diabetes to newly diagnosed type 2's who are hoping to just get started being physically active -- offering structured guidance that starts with checking blood sugars before, during and after exercise.
FitScript's founder Charlie O'Connor is "one of us," diagnosed with type 1 during his senior of high school in November 1996.
His diagnosis was rather dramatic; he was behind the wheel one day and realized he had "tunnel vision." He couldn't see to drive safely, and in fact pulled out right in front of another car driving toward him at an intersection. Luckily, the other driver swerved to avoid a crash. But Charlie knew something was wrong, so he headed to the local emergency room, where he shared his classic symptoms and was given his diagnosis.
At first, he says he buried the emotions and tried to put on a brave face, but he was struggling. Eventually, after years, Charlie recognized he needed to make some changes in his life and do better. He started investigating and developing his own fitness program in 2010, before eventually deciding (thanks to a suggestion from his doctor!) to bring it to the rest of the D-Community. He established the FitScript in 2013.
Charlie says all the online streaming and DVD video content they offer is based "thousands of hours of actual exercise" at the Diabetes Training Center, which his team documented and used to develop this program that anyone can use and fine-tune to their own life. The results they've seen include A1C reductions, more time in glucose range, weight loss, and decreases in insulin resistance rates, he says. The T1D-specific sessions also help PWDs understand how to avoid hypos during exercise, while the T2 and pre-diabetes sessions focus more on general best exercise practices and emphasize BG checks.
People come to them through referrals from the Yale Diabetes Center and other endo centers in Connecticut, but FitScript can actually be prescribed by any healthcare provider for either online or in-person access, Charlie tells us.
"Our ultimate goal is to be a resource for people with diabetes to reach their fitness goals. To that end, we offer the guidance, support, training and original content to support those goals," Charlie says. Of course they're also working on mobile applications, so people can start using FitScript materials on the go.
Fit2Me - Pharma Supports Lifestyle Improvement
As we walked the Exhibit Hall floor at the big diabetes conference in Boston in early June, we couldn't help but notice the massive display set up by AstraZeneca promoting its Fit2Me program.
It's a free personalized life and fitness coaching program the Pharma company launched last Fall for people with type 2 (but really, the concepts can apply to anyone looking to be more fit and healthy). Interesting to see Pharma extending into the business of supporting lifestyle changes.
It's basically an app that can be used on a mobile phone or tablet device, but the company touts that this is the only diabetes support program that offers "digital coaches" to help you though the process and celebrate successes along the way.
The whole theme is that each person with diabetes is unique and there's no cookie-cutter way for them to get fit or be in shape, so this program fine-tunes the specifics for each person. Basically, it allows you to create a customizable "diabetes care plan" fitting to your own likes and dislikes, whether you enjoy certain foods and types of activities and various methods of support.
Here's a snapshot of what's offered in Fit2Me -- the four pillars, if you will:
- Food – Fit2Me has a database of more than 10,000 diabetes-friendly recipes, based on criteria from the American Diabetes Association. After entering likes and dislikes when it comes to cuisine and ingredients, individuals receive their own customized recipe selections allowing them to pick a single meal or create a weekly meal plan.
- Activity – Fit2Me has a database of more than 500 physical activities and focused exercises, most of which have videos with step-by-step instructions. Users can customize an activity program based on their activity level and preferences, with exercises ranging from "lifestyle" to cardio, strength and flexibility.
- Support Team – Fit2Me connects each user with a digital coach (diabetes educators working remotely), whose responses to questions can help plan and celebrate successes. You can select from a number of digital coaches based on their profiles, to ensure you’re paired with the an individual that is best-suited to motivate them.
- Treatment Support – Fit2Me offers medicine and appointment reminders, a blood sugar tracker, and a "personalized treatment kit" that includes information about type 2 diabetes and treatment options from AstraZeneca that they can discuss with their doctor (aahh, the marketing play).
Currently AZ is offering an incentive to people who use the Fit2Me program through August 31; you can accumulate points based on being active and generating positive outcomes, and then use those points to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of 600 prizes, including items like a Pampered Chef Micro-Cooker and a Monster Fitness Premium Exercise Mat.
Nice job adding in the carrot, there.
FitBit - Super-Popular Tracker Gadget
This uber-popular wearable fitness tracker has been dominating the news lately, as going public has made them the highlight of investor news stories in recent weeks. And no: Bloomberg seems pretty certain the Apple Watch isn't going to kill off FitBit. Looks like Fitbit has a big future ahead of it. And I'll admit, I'm a fan.
Now that I've joined the masses in tracking my activity, I get the appeal: it's all about me, keeping tabs on the number of steps I'm taking each day and getting motivated. The newest FitBit One device is about the size of a thumb-drive, and I either stash it in my pocket or use a rubber clip case to hook it onto my belt.
I'm not leaping into the challenges to walk miles upon miles and beat out friends who are also using FitBit. Nope, I just want to be more active than I have been. So, I set an initial goal of trying to walk at least a mile a day, which according to my early analysis is about 2,100-3,000 steps a day.
Mostly, this involves walking the dog around the neighborhood. We have a couple loop-like streets in our neighborhood, and the larger of the two is actually a mile. But sometimes on lazier days or in poor weather, I end up taking the shorter .6-mile stroll.
It's also amazing so see how many steps I take (a few hundred) each day just walking around my house during the workweek.
I like how FitBit automatically uploads the most recent data to my Android phone, assuming Bluetooth is on, and then I can use the smartphone app to more carefully review my fitness data, compare it to my blood sugar trends, and even share that info with friends (using that #FitBit hashtag) and -- if I chose to -- get going on challenges to compete for better fitness.
Of course, I've read the reviews and understand FitBit's monitoring of steps isn't supposed to be taken as gospel. It is not spot-on, and you shouldn't assume so -- just like you shouldn't chase blood sugar numbers on a CGM, but rather for trending to understand where you're BGs are heading.
Still, the whole point of using this technology (or a portal, or multi-media program,etc.) is to get motivated, and after a few weeks, that's happening more often than not, for me.
So it seems the business of creating solutions that get people moving -- especially with diabetes -- has a bright future.
What say you, Diabetes Community: What else is on your list of useful fitness tools, programs, or motivators?