With age, the complexity of diabetes increases. People with diabetes since a longer duration and/or higher HbA1c levels have lower muscle strength per unit of muscle mass than BMI and age matched people without diabetes and people with shorter duration of diabetes or who have better glycemic control.
Also, Type 2 diabetes is caused by resistance to insulin, the hormone which absorbs sugar from one’s diet. Unused sugar causes diabetes symptoms, leading to problems like heart disease, obesity, and kidney failure. Exercise helps in healthy aging by decreasing insulin resistance.
For keeping diabetes under check, exercise should be an integral component of lifestyle as it benefits mobility, balance, reduces fall risk, has psycho-social benefits, and enhances quality of life.
One should start with moderate-intensity activities and gradually build stamina for higher intensity workouts. Moderate-intensity activity will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song. You should be slightly out of breath.
Brisk walking, gardening, and housework are good examples of recommended moderate-intensity activities that help retain physical function, build strength, and expend calories. Simply increasing your spontaneous physical activity ensures innumerable health benefits, including preventing the loss of muscle mass, reductions in mobility, and the onset of frailty.
It is advisable to follow a 150 min/week of moderate-intensity exercises routine, focusing on maintaining or improving balance, aerobics and resistance training. If you are not able to do exercise in one 30-minute stretch, break it up into parts ensuring that they add up to at least 30 minutes a day.
Increase activity in general—such as walking or climbing stairs—rather than a specific exercise. However, don’t rely on housework or other daily activity as your sole exercise. Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down during the day. This means avoiding long periods of TV viewing, computer use, driving, and sitting to read, talk or listen to music. Too often, people overestimate the amount of exercise they get and underestimate the calories they consume.
Older people with diabetes should primarily focus on two types of exercises:
Golden rules to remember for exercising with diabetes:
- If you have complications from diabetes that affect your ability to be active, work with a physical therapist on a customized exercise plan.
- Safety is key! Drink plenty of fluids, monitor your blood glucose before and after physical activity, and always carry something with you to treat low-blood glucose.
- Establish an exercise support network. Find people who will support your goal to stay active, such as a workout buddy or family member.
- Whenever changing your exercise regimen, discuss with your healthcare team to set realistic goals and adopting the plan right for your diabetic condition.
- Drink extra fluid before and after exercise to avoid dehydration.
- Discuss adjusting carbohydrate intake with your dietitian, before and post exercise periods.