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Can Fitbit help me manage my diabetes?

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Type 2 diabetes is a common condition where your blood sugar levels get too high. Having this type of diabetes is related to being overweight and inactive, although there are other risk factors, including a family history of the condition.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, which requires treatment with insulin, type 2 diabetes can be managed with a combination of medication, diet, and exercise. People at risk of type 2 diabetes may also be able to lower their risk by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or told that you’re at risk of it, an activity tracker could be really helpful in helping you exercise more and lose weight.

Diabetes UK have recently partnered with Fitbit to try and encourage people at risk of type 2 diabetes to get more active – read on to find out how you could benefit.

Exercising with your Fitbit

You probably already know that your Fitbit tracks your steps and activity. But you might not know that it can be used to set up weekly exercise goals, record different types of exercise, monitor your heart rate, and log your progress.

Using the GPS in your device or on your smartphone, your Fitbit can track routes that you’ve taken during exercise. That means you can keep a record of the distances you’ve walked, run, or cycled, and work towards personal bests.

The Fitbit can also send activity reminders, encouraging you to get to your feet and move around when you’ve been still for a long time. This can be really useful if you’re just starting out on your exercise journey.

Recording meals with your Fitbit

Your Fitbit isn’t just designed to log exercise. It can also be used to keep track of what you’re eating, and to help you maintain a healthy diet. 

You can set up a food plan with a desired weight goal and then log the nutritional information for what you’re eating each day. The Fitbit app will calculate estimated daily calories burned (based on activity) and compare this to how many calories you’ve consumed.

The Fitbit app also offers a breakdown of what you’ve consumed across the week, which can be a really useful way to assess how much fat, protein, and carbohydrate you’ve been eating. This may be especially useful if you’re trying to diet for the first time.

Read our diabetes food guide for meal inspiration. 

How much should I be exercising with type 2 diabetes?

Exercise is really important for people with type 2 diabetes. It can help your body use insulin more effectively, control your blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, aid with sleep, and help you lose weight.

When it comes to exercising, everybody is different, which means there’s no set plan for people who have type 2 diabetes. What’s right for a friend or family member may not be right for you, and attempting too much might end up doing more harm than good.

In other words, it’s not about aiming to run a marathon. Instead, try to add a little bit more exercise into your daily routine, and aim to work up gradually so that each week you’re doing a little bit more.

What exercises can I do?

As a guide, the NHS recommends that people with type 2 diabetes should do two and a half hours of physical activity each week. This can be any kind of activity as long as it leaves you out of breath e.g. fast walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights, cycling, doing strenuous gardening or housework.

Read our diabetes and exercise guide for more ideas. 

It’s also a good idea to incorporate more mild forms of exercise into your daily routine, especially if you’re used to being still for long periods. As an example, you could stand, stretch, or walk around every time there’s an ad break during your favourite TV show.

What should I be eating with type 2 diabetes?

As with exercise, there are no set rules for what people with type 2 diabetes should eat. However, there are some general guidelines to follow.

The NHS recommends following a healthy, balanced, and varied diet that includes:

  • A wide range of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and some starchy foods (e.g. pasta, bread)
  • Low levels of sugar, fat, and salt
  • Three meals a day – no skipping breakfast!

For more guidance, check out our diabetes food guide

How can I manage my diabetes with a Fitbit?

A fitness tracker like Fitbit can be a great way to keep on top of diet and exercise, and to monitor your overall fitness and health. The main benefit is that you don’t have to stick to any preset schedules or goals – instead you can tailor your Fitbit to your individual needs and lifestyle.

Some tips for using your Fitbit to manage your diabetes include:

  • Setting realistic diet and exercise goals – don’t try to achieve more than is manageable
  • Making sure you check in on your progress – it’s great to remind yourself how far you’ve come
  • Not obsessing over occasional “bad” days – where you may have veered away from your diet and exercise goals
  • Using other features – the sleep tracker and the relax function can help improve your sleep and reduce stress

If you’re interested in getting a Fitbit, you can learn more about their various benefits here.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes
www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/diabetes-treatments
www.diabetes.org.uk/preventing-type-2-diabetes
https://help.fitbit.com/articles/en_US/Help_article/1375.htm
www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/exercise
www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes/food-and-keeping-active