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Growing Older and Staying Active with Diabetes

Medha Munshi, M.D.
Director, Geriatrics Clinic, Joslin Diabetes Center; Director, Outpatient Geriatric Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

The best advice for people of all ages is to stay physically active. Exercise is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. We find that the people in their 90s who are in good health most often are physically active. have exercised most of their lives, but it is never too late to start and gain the benefits.

Not only does physical activity help reduce blood glucose levels, it improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and heart and lung function. It helps us feel energetic instead of tired all the time. We lose muscle mass as we age, but this can be slowed if we do some sort of resistance training—which strengthens muscles and improves balance. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, stationary bicycling, swimming—which all increase the heart rate—is also important for improving diabetes control and heart and lung health.

Falls and fear of falling are common concerns among older adults, but doesn’t have to be a reason to avoid exercise. Modified exercises can be done under supervision and are often offered at senior centers, gyms or by physical therapists at medical centers. It is not a matter of whether you can exercise or not, it is which type of activity you can do. No matter how frail, everyone can exercise, even if it’s while sitting in a chair.


Page last updated: September 18, 2019