6th December 2021

Musgrove consultant leads pioneering study helping patients with type 1 diabetes exercise safely

A consultant at Musgrove Park Hospital is leading a pioneering research study to help people with type 1 diabetes safely increase their exercise levels.

The study, called EXTOD Education (Exercise in Type One Diabetes), will see patients with the condition work with clinicians to develop an education programme that helps those with type 1 diabetes manage their glucose levels so they can safely exercise more.

It is being carried out after research showed high numbers of people with the condition are not exercising enough.

According to figures from Public Health England, about 3,500 people in Somerset live with type 1 diabetes.

Health experts recommend that people with the condition follow a healthy diet and take part in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for at least two and a half hours a week.

This strengthens their heart and lungs, as well as helping their body to use oxygen more effectively.

But several studies have shown that a high number of people with type 1 diabetes are not meeting the recommended level of exercise due to fears about hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and their lack of confidence in adjusting to the right levels of insulin and carbohydrate intake.

Research also suggests that people with type 1 diabetes are much more likely to take part in regular exercise if they are taught how to do so safely.

Leading the study is Professor Robert Andrews, a consultant in diabetes at Musgrove Park Hospital, who is also a researcher at the University of Exeter.

He said:

“Nationally we don’t yet have a validated education programme about exercise for patients with type 1 diabetes in England and this is a real gap that we want to fill.

Furthermore no approved courses exist for healthcare professionals to improve the support they offer to patients about the nutritional adjustments they should make for diabetes and exercise.

We know that 96 per cent of adults with type 1 diabetes feel it is important to be informed about diet and insulin adjustments for safe exercise, but they find it difficult to access this knowledge and put it into practice.

Doctors and nurses have also told us that they want to be better informed about the effect of exercise on diabetes so they can better advise their patients.

Our study seeks to change this situation by looking at the best way of supporting safe and effective exercise for people with type 1 diabetes, while also giving healthcare professionals the skills to support their patients to do this.”

The EXTOD study is divided into two phases.

The first phase will involve focus groups of patients with type 1 diabetes and healthcare professionals sharing their knowledge and experience about lifestyle and exercise. This will be used to develop an education programme that will include instructions on adjusting insulin dosages and carbohydrate intake for safe and effective exercise.

The second phase will take place once the prototype education programme is ready. It will be tested on groups of patients with type 1 diabetes who already exercise regularly.

The research will take place at Musgrove Park Hospital and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

It has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme and will be supported by research teams and healthcare professionals at hospitals and universities in the Midlands.

If you have type 1 diabetes and would like to take part in the study, contact Catherine Thompson, lead diabetes research nurse, at Musgrove Park Hospital on 01823 344 986.