Exercise Slows Early Aging

Type 2 diabetes patients who regularly exercise may slow cardiovascular aging

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) We all grow older, but not necessarily at the same pace. According to recent research, the cardiovascular system (heart and related organs) of patients with type 2 diabetes may age sooner than those without diabetes.

According to the researchers, many diabetes patients not only have problems with exercise but also with day-to-day activities like walking to the grocery store.

The reduced levels of fitness that result can boost the risk of early disability and death in people with type 2 diabetes.

This means exercise may help slow this early cardiovascular aging.

"Stay active to stay healthy as you age."

A review of current research - conducted by Amy Huebschmann, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues - suggested that a decrease in fitness may be an inescapable part of growing older.

After age 40 or 50, a healthy adult starts to lose about 10 percent of fitness every 10 years. In people with type 2 diabetes, however, fitness levels are about 20 percent worse than those without diabetes. That is, diabetes seems to take a 20 percent toll on fitness levels as patients age.

Reduced fitness and disability may mean that a diabetic patient may have to move much earlier into an assisted living facility or other institutionalized setting, she said.

Fortunately, exercise can curb these early aging effects - a finding that Dr. Huebschmann and her fellow researchers have shown in a number of studies.

People with type 2 diabetes boosted their fitness by as much as 40 percent after 12 to 20 weeks of regular exercise. Still, diabetes patients did not improve their fitness levels to that of people without diabetes.

"In other words, these defects are not necessarily permanent," said Dr. Huebschmann.

"They can be improved, which is great news," she said.

The research by Dr. Huebschmann and colleagues has consistently shown that exercise can lower the risk of heart-related problems associated with diabetes. Unfortunately, these findings cannot make diabetic patients adopt a lifestyle than includes the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.

"People with diabetes are typically less physically active, but the majority of those patients say that their doctors told them to be active," said Dr. Huebschmann.

"There's a disconnect between what patients know they should do and what they actually do," she said.

At the moment, the researchers are looking for ways to get type 2 diabetes patients to reach their exercise goals.

The study by Dr. Huebschmann and colleagues was presented at The Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting in Westminster, Colorado. The research has yet to be reviewed by a body of peers. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 15, 2012
Last Updated:
October 16, 2012