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Exercise boost for diabetes patients battling the bulge

A pilot exercise referral scheme developed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and evaluated by London South Bank University (LSBU) could help diabetes sufferers lose weight and manage their condition better.

Professor Ann Taket has spent two years working with hospital staff on DOROTHEA, a £220,700 programme funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity that encourages patients with the most common form of diabetes to do more physical activity. Of 225 participants, 74 per cent completed the scheme – compared to just 20 per cent on previous schemes – with more than half increasing their physical activity.

Many previous exercise referral schemes have had limited impact, Professor Taket said. She explained that DOROTHEA was designed to help diabetes sufferers who could face severe consequences, including losing limbs due to poor circulation, if they did not keep their weight under control. “The scheme isn’t about dragging patients to the gym, which people without a mean, lean body can find quite intimidating,” she said. ”It’s all about integrating increased physical activity into their daily routine and offering proactive support at times when they’re finding it tough going.”

The team built on patients’ existing activities, such as walking and gardening, and also invited them to take part in specially-arranged exercise classes at community venues and group walks. “One reason the scheme managed to retain such a high percentage of people is that the activities were accessible and enjoyable,” Professor Taket said. The patients attended three different consultations during the year. Follow-up calls were made a month after the first two consultations and three months before the last to offer support and consider any relapse prevention. “By picking up the phone and reaching out to people individually we were able to talk through some of the factors that make physical activity difficult,” she said. “This motivational approach proved decisive.” Findings from this project are now being taken up in physical activity schemes run in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

Professor Taket, who divides her time between posts at Deakin University Australia and LSBU, is now leading a further Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity-funded study aimed at understanding how to improve such programmes. “The DOROTHEA scheme does mean a more hands-on approach in terms of providing support, so we need to explore different ways of doing this,” she said. “However, our research definitely points to a system that works for the patient.”

Phil Smith | alfa
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