Staff Report

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute is offering a mobile-friendly tool called to help people with diabetes exercise more safely by reducing the risk of their blood sugar levels going dangerously low or high.

As well as providing a wealth of information on how to prepare and participate in exercise, ExCarbs features an easy-to-use advisor, the ExCarb and Insulin Calculator, to take the guesswork out of preparing to work out.

“We are trying to encourage people who are fearful of physical activity but would like to take it up, but at the same time we want to make it as simple as possible,” said Dr. David Kerr, director of research and innovation at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.

Kerr developed ExCarbs in collaboration with two colleagues, Dr. Helen Partridge from the United Kingdom and Dr. Michael Riddell at York University in Toronto. Both are authorities in exercise and diabetes.

“Although we are all aware of the medical benefits of exercise, the reality is for people with type 1 diabetes specifically and for insulin users in general, it can be really hard to plan for and participate in exercise,” Dr. Kerr said.

“If they get the dose and timing of their insulin and their carbohydrates wrong, they run the risk of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), both during and after exercise,” he said.

“What we’ve found, sadly, is there’s a risk of excess weight gain with type 1 diabetes and we therefore need to try to encourage more people with the condition to take up physical activity, but the challenge is to make sure they are safe when they do this,” Dr. Kerr said. “That was the rationale for setting this up.”

The ExCarb and Insulin Calculator works by entering the person’s weight, an estimate for the duration and intensity level of exercise, and how much insulin ordinarily is taken with a meal before starting to work out.

The calculator provides guidance that can be easily discussed with a doctor or diabetes team.

SDRI is working on another version of ExCarbs, specifically for people with type 2 diabetes, which they hope to launch next year. In addition, the institute has created a free resource for people with diabetes when they are planning to travel,

Kerr is a Scotland-trained physician and endocrinologist who joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2014. He previously worked as a researcher at Yale University and is Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

He is also the 2017 recipient of the Leadership Award from the Diabetes Technology Society.