A Prescription for Diabetics' Health

Type 2 diabetics can retain mobility longer with exercise and weight loss

(RxWiki News) Overweight adults with type 2 diabetes can do two things to practically double the likelihood that they'll remain healthy and active: lose weight and exercise.

A recent study found that increasing physical fitness and losing weight had a positive impact on the risk of these adults' losing their mobility.

"Lose weight and exercise for better health."

Jack Rejeski, Ph.D., a professor of health and exercise at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., led the study over a four-year period.

Starting with 5,145 participants with type 2 diabetes, the researchers split them into two groups. One was a diabetes support and education group who received general instruction on diet, exercise and social support and who met three times a year.

The other half participated in an intensive lifestyle intervention group that included more regular group and individual meetings and emphasized losing weight and keeping it off by decreasing their calories and increasing their exercise.

Researchers weighed participants from both groups each year and assessed their fitness level once a year with a treadmill fitness test.

The researchers rated the participants' levels of mobility and disability by evaluating how well they could do certain activities, including strenuous activities like running and lifting heavy objects as well as lighter work, like vacuum cleaning or golf.

The participants also ranked themselves in terms of how well they could climb stairs, walk over a mile, walk a block, and bend, kneel or stoop.

Following the fourth year of the study, approximately half as many participants in the weight loss and exercise intervention group had lost some mobility compared to those in the education group.

In addition, 26 percent of those in the education group reported a severe disability compared to 21 percent of the group that received the intervention.

Among those who reported having good mobility, 39 percent were in the intervention group compared to 32 percent in the education group.

"The weight loss and physical activity goals promoted in the study are well within the reach of most Americans," Rejeski said.

The researchers reported that losing weight and increasing exercise levels both were linked to lower risk of mobility problems, though weight loss played a slightly larger part.

"This study of mobility highlights the value of finding ways to help adults with type 2 diabetes keep moving as they age," said author Mary Evans, Ph.D.

"We know that when adults lose mobility, it becomes difficult for them to live on their own, and they are likely to develop more serious health problems, increasing their health care costs," Evans said.

Griffin Rodgers, M.D., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases through the National Institutes of Health, noted that a good level of mobility contributes to a person's quality of life.

"These findings add support to making lifestyle changes that improve health and reduce disability in people with type 2 diabetes, changes that already have been shown to prevent the disease and provide a good return on investment," Rodgers said.

The research appears in the March 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Review Date: 
March 30, 2012