Best Exercise Choices for Seniors With Diabetes

By | December 5, 2013

According to an American Diabetes Association January 26, 2007 online article entitled “The Failure to Stay Fit: People with Diabetes Get Far Less Exercise Than Others (But None of Us Get Enough),” less than 40% of people with diabetes are active physically. The above article also indicates that regular exercise can help prevent Type II diabetes and can help prevent complications of Type I and Type II diabetes.

Learning about the latest recommendations for exercise is a great place to start in planning an exercise program. Many options for living a healthier lifestyle are simple, inexpensive, and readily available. Picking exercise options that appeal to one’s interests is often the key to continuing with the exercise program, and regularly evaluating how the program is working can help to ensure that exercises meet current needs.

CDC Exercise Recommendations for People with Diabetes

Other than avoiding doctor-recommended restrictions on activity and exercise, seniors have a vast array of exercise choices based the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s June 27, 2006 ” Exercise and Diabetes ” recommendations of workouts:

  • moderate intensity
  • minimum of 30 minutes/day
  • five or more days/week

It helps to plan a workout in an area where emergency equipment is available and where others may assist if needed, especially if the senior with diabetes is just beginning an exercise routine. Weather conditions and appropriate attire should also be considered. Safe Exercise Tips for Seniors with Diabetes provides specific information regarding safe exercise related to the special needs of those diagnosed with diabetes.

Simple Ways to Start an Exercise Program

Seniors beginning an exercise program may need to start with a lower level of exercise for a shorter period of time and increase progressively until the above goals are safely met. Here are a few examples:

  • Add a few steps to regular household activities like using the controls on the TV rather than using the remote control.
  • Park farther away when going shopping to going to work.
  • Doing a few simple exercises or stretches during commercial breaks or at scheduled times throughout the day.
  • Walk down extra aisles while shopping.
  • Put on some favorite music and dance.
  • Take the grandkids to the playground and actively play with them.

People are more likely to start and continue an exercise program if the activity is something that they enjoy. When deciding on the best exercise, seniors can look at their interests and abilities and proceed from there.

Exercise Options for Seniors with Diabetes Based on Personal Preferences

People who like to exercise in groups may enjoy:

  • Dancing – Many gyms are now offering group dancing exercise classes with certified instructors
  • Group exercise classes in the water – These may incorporate movements in shallow or deep water
  • Group exercise classes on land, such as yoga, aerobics, spinning (cycling), toning classes, etc. – Some classes, like SilverSneakers, focus specifically on senior needs.
  • Sports such as volleyball, tennis, racquetball, and basketball

People who prefer one-on-one may enjoy having a personal trainer or an accountability partner to help follow up on fitness commitments. Others may find that a spouse, sibling, friend, or child may work out with them on a regular basis.

Those who prefer a more self-paced style may like to try:

  • walking
  • bicycling
  • skiing
  • swimming
  • hiking
  • interactive computer sports and games, such as the Nintendo Wii
  • home videos of exercise classes – be careful to select ones that provide safe movements
  • self-directed exercise stations in public or private areas
  • gardening and other yard work

According to a 2005-2009 WebMD article entitled “Type II Diabetes and Exercise,” strength training provided numerous benefits to study participants with diabetes, including increased muscles, decreased body fat, less depressive symptoms, and an increased sense of self-confidence.

Evaluation of Exercise Program for Older Adults with Diabetes

Some people find that their first choice for exercise does not work well for them. Maybe that Zumba class caused her knees to hurt or the bicycle left him sore in places he never expected. Perhaps the treadmill and weight machines were intimidating or the Wii left a shoulder hurting for days.

It is always a good idea to check with a physician first if an exercise program seems to be causing additional health issues or pain. A healthcare provider may need to assess and treat other health problems that may be interfering with one’s ability to exercise. If one type of exercise seems to be a poor fit, many options are available, such as:

  • Choosing a different type of exercise – fitness staff members may be able to offer suggestions
  • Picking a different style of exercise, such as trying a restorative yoga if a flow yoga class seems too advanced
  • Asking for modifications – group exercise instructors may offer position changes or simpler moves within the class
  • Decreasing the intensity of exercise, such as lowering weight amounts as needed
  • Changing the time of day or location of the exercise

Seniors With Diabetes Can Enjoy Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

Exercise options for seniors with diabetes are about as versatile as the people themselves. Making the choice to exercise regularly may be difficult at first, but with careful planning and evaluation, those healthy lifestyle choices may improve physical and mental health.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.

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