Top Trackers and Devices for Diabetes Fitness

Keep Your Fitness Goals in Track with These Tools and Tips

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Exercise is important for physical health, especially for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association 2015 Standards of Care state that adults with diabetes should exercise for at least 150 minutes/week, engaging in moderate-intense aerobic physical activity spread over at the course of a minimum of 3 days. All individuals, including those with diabetes, should reduce sedentary time-aiming to refrain from sitting for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Lastly, when physically able, people with Type 2 diabetes should perform resistance training at least twice per week. 

Most of us already know that exercise is beneficial to health. The question becomes how do we motivate ourselves to start an exercise routine and how can we stick to it. In today's world, there are so many tools we can use to self-motivate, but it's hard to know which ones are best to use and how to get started using them. One of the greatest resources a person with diabetes can refer to is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). CDE's can help you discover a wealth of resources and technological innovations suitable for your needs. I've asked Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, MS, CDE at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and an executive board member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators to help us weed out which tools are best for people with diabetes when it comes to exercise.

She also shares her tips on how to get motivated!

Q: How Do Diabetes Educators Encourage Someone Who Has Never Exercised to Start Becoming More Physically Active? How Can You Help Them Get Motivated? 

A: The first important piece of information would be to find out about their previous exercise experience, including successes and challenges or roadblocks.

This information can help us set goals, and overcome obstacles. For example, for someone who has never exercised, or hasn't in a long time, the most important thing is to start slow and increase at a pace that allows for success without setbacks such as injuries. 

It is also important for diabetes educators to dispel myths. For instance, many people think that they have to work out really hard to gain any benefit. This isn't true. If a person has been inactive or has health problems that get in the way of activity, he especially should start with low to moderate intensity exercise. There is no need to get short of breath. In fact, if someone has health issues such as diabetes or heart disease, he should receive medical clearance prior to starting exercise, especially if it's high intensity. 

Another myth is that you must be active for 30 minutes or more in a row to gain benefit. This is false; in fact there are health benefits as soon as a person starts to move. Someone new to activity can start with five to 10 minutes at a time, a few times per day.

As this becomes less of a strain, increase the duration of time by another five to 10 minutes. As time goes on, he or she may be able to do 30 minutes of more at a time. 

Q: We Always Tell People to Find Their Motivation - What Does This Mean and How Can They Do It? 

A: Many people are challenged by lack of motivation to exercise. Let's face it, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But, many Americans do not meet the recommended guidelines, and even fewer people with diabetes meet the guidelines. A diabetes educator can help spark the behavior change necessary for a person to increase physical activity or exercise.  

I recommend that a person should first decide what their goals are and write a plan. People are more motivated when they know exercise is helping them work toward something that is important to them personally. For example, being more active with children or grandchildren without struggling; getting up from a chair or climbing stairs with less strain; living independently in one’s own home; enjoying recreational activities; or completing a bike, walk or run race. To meet their goal, I’d also help patients identify what they have control over. For example, when a person wants to lose weight, the behavioral goal may be to start walking for 30 minutes a day, five days per week. Successful behavior change will be seen when the person does the 30 minute walk, five days per week. What about the weight loss? That should follow. Motivation can be increased when a person sees success. Therefore, if a behavior isn't changed or the goal isn't achieved, then it's back to the drawing board to re-evaluate the goal and the motivation. 

Q: Speaking of Goals and Motivation, are There Any Specific Trackers that Diabetes Educators Recommend for Logging Fitness Goals?

A: There are many activity trackers available, from simple and inexpensive to detailed and more costly. Trackers should be chosen based on a few things, including personal goals, how technologically savvy the person is and, of course, the cost. Here are a few that might be suitable: 

  • Pedometer: A pedometer is a fairly inexpensive tool that is used to count steps. It is easy to use too. The only caveat is that some pedometers vary in accuracy. In efforts to make sure you are tracking steps correctly, you'll likely have to spend about $25. However, an alternative option would be to download an app on your smartphone and use that as your pedometer. Many of these apps are free and have been shown to be fairly accurate. 
  • Diabetes Apps: The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has an app called AADE Diabetes Goal Tracker that helps a person set and track goals related to seven self-care behaviors for diabetes self-management, including “Being Active.” These self-care behaviors are related to many other diseases and disorders including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

Q: Do Diabetes Educators Have a Fitness App That They Find People with Diabetes Enjoy Using? 

A: Diabetes educators recommend fitness apps depending on each individual’s needs. Some apps track calorie intake, carbohydrates and other nutritional information, and some track calories burned on various activities. Common apps that are fairly easy to use and give great information are MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, and SparkPeople Mobile. Other smart phone apps serve as activity monitors to help people work out. Examples of these include the Pacer-Pedometer and the 7 Minute WorkOut.


American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2015. Diabetes Care. 2015 Jan; 38 (Suppl 1): S1-90

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