It’s no secret that exercise is good for you and it’s especially important for older adults with diabetes.
Did you know, for example, that muscle strength declines by 15% per decade after age 50 and 30% per decade after age 70?
By regularly participating in strength-building exercise, however, muscle tissue and strength can be restored.
What’s more, exercise also makes it easier for older individuals to maintain their strength, balance, flexibility and endurance — all of which are important for staying healthy and independent.
Lastly, exercise improves insulin sensitivity and can improve a person’s response to blood glucose medications.
Exercise is safe for most adults aged 65 and over. Moreover, even individuals with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis can safely enjoy regular exercise. Exercise actually improves many of these conditions!
Types of Exercises
There are different exercises for each part of the body and the first step in determining any exercise regimen is to consult with your family members doctor. Once their doctor has given the go-ahead, the person’s exercise program should include balance training because there is evidence that this can help to reduce the risk of falls.
Balance exercises like side leg raises and knee flexions can help decrease the risk of falls. A variety of balance exercises can be done, as some build up the leg muscles, and others, like briefly standing on one leg, improve balance. Now widely popular, Tai Chi may be of some benefit to older adults, but its effects have not been greatly studied in seniors.
Flexibility, or stretching, exercises lengthen the muscles and tissues that hold the body’s structures in place. Over time, regular flexibility training may help keep the body limber, speed recovery from injuries and prevent future injuries and falls.
Strength, or ”resistance,” exercises using light weights, balances and elastic bands can not only help build up leg and arm muscles, but also improve balance. However, this type of exercise may not be appropriate for individuals who have diabetic retinopathy (eye disease).
Endurance exercises, like walking, jogging, rowing or swimming improve the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system. They may also delay or prevent colon cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke and other serious diseases.
Remember that successful exercise programs are those that last 10 weeks or longer. Help your loved one make exercise a success by setting small, achievable goals and encourage them to make their chosen form of physical activity a regular part of their daily routine.
Although you can’t do the exercise for them, there are things you can do to help your loved one get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. For example:
If your family member has “couch potato” tendencies, remind them that exercise can increase their feeling of well-being by improving their insulin sensitivity. You may also want to mention that exercise is encouraged for all older adults who are considered able to participate by their doctors.
If your family member lives in a nursing home, assisted living or long-term care facility, ask the staff what exercise program they offer for residents and enroll your loved one. To increase the odds that they’ll go, consider enrolling one of their friends for companionship.
Most importantly, before your family member begins any exercise program, schedule a physical check-up and discuss with the doctor which types and frequency of exercise are best for your family member.
Depending upon your loved one’s condition, certain forms of exercise may need to be avoided. Individuals with diabetes-related eye disease (retinopathy) may need to avoid or limit resistance exercises (free weights, weight machines and rubber exercise bands) because these types of physical activities can elevate blood pressure and cause bleeding in the eyes.
Invest in a good pair of comfortable walking shoes
Increase the number of times you walk each week.
Then the length of your walks before you increase your pace
Work toward walking daily for at least 30 minutes, in addition to doing your regular activities
Vary where you walk to keep it interesting
Share the health benefits with a friend – walk with others whenever you can
Increasing Walking Using a Pedometer
In survey after survey, walking for health is reported as the most popular exercise choice, especially for older adults. Public health recommendations state that everyone should do 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, most if not all days of the week.
Pedometers are simple gadgets that cost 35 euros or less, that you wear on your waist to continuously count the steps you take in a day. They also have the potential to be motivational devices.
Research increasingly supports the use of pedometers. In older women, a higher number of steps a day has been associated with increased bone density. And in middle-aged populations, a lower number of steps a day has been linked to increased body fat and decreased fitness.
Studies of individuals who have increased their steps a day have shown improved physical fitness, blood pressure and body composition.
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