Fresh Views

Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice: Applied to Activity Tracker Conversations

Tami walked the length of the Sahara Desert!

Just keep taking the next step and keep having excellence in the ordinary. – Dave Ramsey

In this week’s Diabetes Technology and Solution-Focused Practice post we’re discussing taking a solution-focused approach to activity tracker and physical activity conversations. We are both huge advocates of activity trackers, and have used several different versions ourselves over the years. Currently, Deb relies on her Apple Watch, while Tami likes her Fitbit (although it’s on it’s last leg…so something new will be coming soon!)  Recent estimates are that about 1 in 5 Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Whether a smart watch, wrist band, clip on pedometer, smartphone app, or other variety, activity trackers can give extra incentive to get active. They also provide a wealth of statistics on workouts and general health to have the data needed to achieve fitness goals. Many track not only steps and movement, but distance, activity intensity, calories burned, mindfulness, sleep, heart rate, and more. There are even fitness trackers for children with a variety of fun functions beyond tracking activity.

A Facebook memory popped up the day we were posting the blog – Tami and Deb walking 10,000 steps along the Chicago lakefront with their husbands!

Focus on “exceptions”, rather than gaps

When reviewing physical activity frequency, duration, step counts etc with clients, there is  opportunity to implement a solution-focused approach (rather than focusing on “gaps” in activity). For example, when reviewing fitness tracker logs such as the one below, where this individual’s goal was to get 10,000 steps each day – rather than focusing on 3/10, 3/11, and 3/12 where step counts were far below their goal, turn instead to focus on 3/7 where they achieved 7016 steps, and 3/13 where they got 8681 steps. If we focus on the days where activity was low, we miss out on identifying successes

4 questions we could ask when acknowledging those “successful” days are:

  1. How did you work that many steps into your day? 
  2. What were you doing differently than on 3/10-3/12, for instance?
  3. How can you do that more often? 
  4. What are some other ways you can be more active?   

A case example from Tami…

Years back, I worked with a client that was a dentist, and as such was fairly sedentary most of the day. When I began seeing her, she had recently learned that she had type 2 diabetes and was trying to increase her activity, in addition to managing her weight and blood glucose. Over the course of several visits we talked about the huge benefits of physical activity and the value of activity trackers in raising awareness around physical activity. While initially resistant to “exercising”, she eventually agreed to purchase a wrist band activity tracker with an initial goal of wearing it for 2 weeks to learn what her average movement and step count was during the day. She learned that she averaged 1200-1500 steps/day. She found that information enlightening, and immediately started considering how she could be more intentional to increase her movement. When she returned a month later for her follow-up visit with me, she had already increased her average step count to 5000-6000 steps each day. Wow! 

I acknowledged her mindfulness, intentionality, time, and hard work. In applying the 4 questions above with her, I learned that to increase her activity, she was getting up between appointments and walking around the office. Then, she decided that at home in the evenings while watching TV and knitting, she would get up and walk around the house during commercials. From there, she went on to take-up swimming laps, then added doing a circuit work out at a local gym. She built upon her successes and leveraged those. 

She was one of those special people you never forget. She had a fantastic sense of humor! She  enjoyed traveling and I frequently would have photos show up in my email of her swimming in a pool on a cruise, swimming in the lake at her lake house, or getting a “hydro massage” after working out at her local gym.  Applying a solution-focused approach to activity and activity tracker conversations assisted her in self-discovery and leveraging her successes in moving more for even greater successes.

While activity tracking apps can help motivate individuals to make health behavior changes, just like anything else, if we focus on the negatives, success will be more difficult to achieve. When working with clients, help them set realistic goals to achieve to set them up for success, then build upon their achievements in a slow and steady process.

We plan to continue to write about a variety of other technologies that impact and influence diabetes care and education including diabetes apps, digital health tools, diabetes devices, online peer support and online coaching. Stop back by in 2 weeks to see what’s up next!

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If you are a health care professional and interested in learning more about our solution-focused practice and approach, when you subscribe to our blog, we’ll send you in return a FREE resource of 10 Solution-Focused Questions to start a solution-focused discussion with your clients. 

Deb is employed by Dexcom, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

Tami is employed by the University of Kentucky HealthCare Barnstable Brown DIabetes Center, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.