A new app developed by researchers at the University of Utah may be a tool for helping people living with diabetes change their attitude towards physical activity and increase the time they plan to spend exercising. A recent study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, shows that users of this app increased their plans to walk for exercise in the next week by 33.5 minutes.
"I see this as a tool that educators can use in their office to help patients make the visual connection between the power that they have with physical activity and diabetes management," Nancy Allen, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah and coauthor of the paper, said in a statement.
The study found that the app helped people more accurately see how excersise impacts their average blood sugar.
"Based on prior work, we thought people would underestimate the impact of physical activity, but we were wrong," Bryan Gibson, assistant professor in Biomedical Informatics at U of U Health and first author on the paper, said in a statement. "The patients overestimated the impact of physical activity on their blood sugar, but after using the simulation their motivation still increased."
Before the study, researchers developed an interactive online app aimed to help motivate patients to be more active and manage their diabetes. The simulation was personalized and demonstrated the impact of physical activity on blood glucose level. The team’s goal was to see how the app effected activity-related outcomes expectations and behavioral intentions among people with Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers emailed a link to the study to a list of clients of Alliance Health, a national diabetes testing supplier. The link was also sent to a list of clinicians who work with people with diabetes, inviting them to share the link with their patients. A total of 2,019 people visited the website and of that 1,335 individuals completed the study. The average patient age was 59.8 years old and a majority were white (77.4 percent), female (56.5 percent), and in the lower income bracket (64 percent).
The simulation had seven components including a pre-simulation outcome expectancy section, where participants could show where they thought their glucose levels would be after 30 minutes of walking, and a walking simulation which showed a more accurate portrayal of what their glucose levels might look like. Participants were then asked to fill in their post-simulation outcome expectancies. At the end, participants were asked about their excercise intentions on the website.
While the study revealed the simulation had an impact on participants’ attitude and excercise expectations, some participants had trouble understanding the website, according to the study.
The research team says the next step is to measure the effect of the simulation on objectively measured behavior.
"Exercise is a natural part of your daily living," Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and co-author on the study, said in a statement. "Sitting is the new smoking, but our technology empowers patients to understand how exercise improves their health."