InsulINdependence Diabetes and Exercise Conference: Amazing

Lane InsulinIndependence Panel_Featured

Recently, some of us from Medtronic Diabetes had the privilege of attending the InsulINdependence North American Conference on Diabetes and Exercise in San Diego. This conference combines two of my greatest passions, diabetes and exercise. Although I went in with high expectations, I was unprepared for what I saw and heard and learned.

How many other conferences have not just one “fun run”, but 3, 5 and 7 mile versions! My new friend Tommy and I led the field in the 7 mile run. At 17 years old, he’s not letting type 1 diabetes hold him back!

Fun was had by all at the Greatest Awards Show in Diabetes, hosted by blogger Kerri Morrone Sparling and Mt. Everest Climber and Ironman Triathlete Sebastien Sassevill at the House of Blues in San Diego. Blogger Scott Johnston was among the many award winners.

InsulINdependence is a nonprofit organization formed in 2005 with a vision to reduce the burden of diabetes in the United States through physical activity and peer support. Their core values came through loud and clear at the conference:

1. Exercise is a cornerstone habit for individual behavior change and positive health outcomes.
2. It is socially responsible for people with diabetes to stay fit and healthy.
3. People with diabetes should challenge routines to adapt individualized self-management strategies.
4. Peer support plays a vital role in sustainable healthcare systems.

The conference included tracks on physiology, nutrition, and data and technology.

A healthy diabetes lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. As we all know, eating right, minimizing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep is good for diabetes, and good for life. So is exercise. As demonstrated at this conference, exercise plays an amazing positive mental and physical role in diabetes. However according to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in the movie Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”. We must be mindful of the myriad causal factors relating blood glucose and exercise: level of conditioning, intensity, duration, different activities, times of day, location, and temperature. Plus confounding factors like training vs. competition, illness, and sleep. Sometimes people with diabetes are intimidated by this responsibility, and unfortunately fail to experience the benefits of exercise.

During the conference I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion with some amazing folks from Insulet, Tandem Diabetes, Dexcom, and Profil Institute. This session, moderated by Adam Brown from Close Concerns, explored the question “What’s on the horizon for diabetes technology?” Over and above the exciting developments in foundational technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, an exciting array of wellness sensors, apps, and websites are upon us. Since blood glucose is affected by so many things, we need to take a broader view of the technologies which are on the horizon. Never has it been easier to collect physiological data – perspiration, movement, heartrate, location. These aren’t diabetes devices per se, but they collect critical contextual data which these athletes are already using to improve their performance and glycemic outcomes. We’ve gone from a drought to a deluge of data. As is so often the case, raw technologies like pervasive sensors, ubiquitous networks, smartphones, and cloud computing are only part of the story. A host of other important factors are in the mix too: privacy, security, patient data access, intellectual property, and interoperability. Case in point: most of these technologies were never designed to provide realtime or retrospective insights for chronic disease management. The lines between wellness, fitness, and medicine differ depending on who you ask. These folks are on the cutting edge.

It was exciting to see how the athletes at this conference develop their understanding of the cause and effect of factors contributing to athletic performance and glycemic variability. For instance, on the morning of the second day of the conference I went for a run with Cliff Scherb. Cliff is the record holder for the fastest person with type 1 diabetes at the Half Ironman World Championships. He coaches athletes in endurance sports. People like Cliff are charting the way in making sense of that data in driving a healthy, happy life with diabetes (his HbA1c is 5.4). (Note: Lane found this information on his website, www. tristarathletes.com)

In the sense-decide-act feedback loop, athletes are at the vanguard: every training day, every race, they are sensing their bodies, deciding blood glucose management strategies, and taking actions to improve their performance. They are measuring, learning, and adapting; continuously balance the myriad causal factors relating performance and glucose management: hydration, electrolytes, training, kinesiology, sleep, nutrition, insulin. The insights gained from these “n of 1″ experiments provide key insights to help us one day create an artificial pancreas system that safely and effectively reduces the burden of diabetes.

If I had to summarize this conference in one word, that word would be AMAZING. Amazing people, amazing achievements, amazing insights, amazing community, amazing fun, amazing demonstration of the positive role which exercise plays in living with diabetes.

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