Exercise Helps Reverse Diabetic Immobility
Diabetic immobility occurs when a person’s diabetes is so bad that it reduces their ability to move around comfortably. This can be the result of diabetic neuropathy – a condition of the nerves. But it can also relate to the inability of blood to be circulated to muscles and ligaments.
My father was paralyzed from polio and was bound to a wheelchair. But one thing he refused to do over the years for the rest of his life was to remain immobile. My father exercised daily – regardless of his physical restrictions. His exercise routine included swimming, lifting weights, walking with braces and talking ‘walks’ in his chair. As a result, my father remained healthy until his late 80s. Despite being paralyzed from the neck down from polio he also increased the mobility of his body through the years.
I say all this because if my father can stay active despite his handicap, surely we can stay active.
Exercise with calorie restriction reverses diabetic immobility
Researchers from Wake Forest University have found that exercise and calorie reduction help prevent the loss of mobility among adult diabetes patients.
The researchers tested 5,016 adults between the ages of 45 and 74 years old with type 2 diabetes mellitus. About a third of the group suffered from reduced mobility at the beginning of the study.
For four years, 2,514 underwent lifestyle intervention consisting primarily of exercise and reducing calories. The other 2,502 patients had only diabetes support and education.
After the four year period, the lifestyle intervention group was 48% less likely to lose mobility compared to the support and education group. The lifestyle intervention group also had significantly more “good mobility” ratings.
Obesity levels curbed
Not unexpectedly, the lifestyle intervention group also showed lower levels of obesity and overall improved fitness, measured by treadmill testing. The only adverse events related to the lifestyle intervention were some muscle aches and pains.
The researchers concluded:
“An intensive lifestyle intervention that produces weight loss and improves fitness could slow the loss of mobility in such patients. Weight loss and improved fitness slowed the decline in mobility in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes.”
The mechanism is actually quite simple. Exercise increases artery health, which increases circulation and nutrient delivery to muscles and joints. This helps keep the body moving.
The research was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Rejeski WJ, Ip EH, Bertoni AG, Bray GA, Evans G, Gregg EW, Zhang Q; Look AHEAD Research Group. Lifestyle change and mobility in obese adults with type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 29;366(13):1209-17.