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'Activity snacking’ to help manage type 1 diabetes

Project summary

Studies in labs show that breaking up sitting time could help people with type 1 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels. Dr Katie Hesketh and her team will test this with people in their day-to-day lives for the first time. This could give people with type 1 diabetes a simple and practical way to manage their condition and lower their risk of developing complications. 

Background to research

Long periods of sitting time can be harmful to our health, even if you exercise regularly.   

Previous research we funded has shown that taking short walks often between periods of sitting – known as activity snacking – can help people with type 1 diabetes reduce their blood sugar levels and increase their time in range by 14%. But this study took place in a controlled lab setting, and the results may be different in the real world. So, Dr Katie Hesketh and her team want to know if this approach still works in people’s normal day-to-day lives. 

Research aims

Dr Hesketh will run a study to investigate the effects of activity snacking on blood sugar levels in the real world. The team will recruit 118 people with type 1 diabetes who sit down for more than eight hours a day.  

All the participants will wear a flash glucose monitor, that allows the researchers to check their real-time blood sugar levels. Before the study starts, participants will be asked to record their insulin doses, carbohydrate intake, and wear an activity monitor to track their sitting time for one week. 

Half of the participants will then continue with their normal routine over the next four weeks. But the other half will try out the ‘activity snacking’ intervention. They’ll receive a text message asking them to walk for 3 minutes every 30 minutes between 9am and 5pm each day. 

The team will collect all the health information again at the end of the study. They’ll compare the results and see if breaking up sitting time can still help people with type 1 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels in real-life settings.  

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

For people with type 1 diabetes, managing blood sugar levels day in day out is relentless. Being physically active is important for managing the condition, but building exercise into your daily routine can be challenging, and even those who exercise frequently can often spend a lot of time sitting or lying down.   

This study hopes to confirm that breaking up sitting time is an effective way to help people with type 1 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. This would offer a cost-free, accessible and simple option, that in turn could also lower people’s risk of developing complications, such as kidney disease and sight loss. 

Next Review Date
Next review due
30 August 2025
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