The body is amazing in its capacity to heal and stay slim with the right food and a minimum of the right exercise.
There is no one diet that fits all. But if you have failed many times then that is actually a good thing because then you can rule out what did not work. Some of the diets you have tried will have certain parts that did work to some degree which can serve to put you in the right direction.
As we get older, our bodies change — and we may not have the energy and stamina for exercise that we once did. Add type 2 diabetes into the mix, and it can become a challenge to stay active. But aging and exercise share an important relationship, especially for those who have diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 26 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. That includes about 27 percent of Americans age 65 or older.
In addition to the inevitable aging that everybody experiences, called primary aging, people with diabetes have a faster type of aging, called secondary aging, according to a review of exercise and aging in diabetes, published in the journal Vascular Medicine. This type of aging mainly affects your blood vessels and can cause early heart disease and high blood pressure. The good news is that exercise can help slow down secondary aging.
"Regular exercise is a key component to both prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes," says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, a dietitian and diabetes educator at the Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “At any age, people with diabetes should incorporate regular physical activity as part of their diabetes self-care routine.”
How Exercise Affects Aging With Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, which constitutes about 90 to 95 percent of all types of diabetes, is most common in adults. It's caused by resistance to insulin, the hormone you need to absorb sugar from your diet. That unused sugar causes diabetes symptoms and leads to problems like heart disease, obesity, and kidney failure.
Exercise encourages healthy aging with diabetes because it decreases insulin resistance. Depending on your age and physical condition, you should be striving for 20 to 60 minutes of exercise on three to seven days of each week, including resistance training on at least two of those days. Talk to your doctor for help determining your exercise goals and how to adopt an exercise program with aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching.
Aerobic Exercise for Healthy Aging
Aerobic exercises, also called cardiovascular exercises, are those that get your big muscles moving and get your heart beating faster. Aerobic exercise has many benefits for diabetes. “Specifically, it can help improve insulin action and lower blood glucose levels," says Massey. "It also has cardiovascular benefits and is helpful in sustaining weight loss.”
Try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days a week. But even if you can do only 10 minutes at a time, the benefits add up. Examples include walking, biking, stair climbing, and dancing. Aerobic exercise classes are another great way to increase your aerobic activity.
Start with aerobic exercise at low to moderate intensity. The intensity should be just enough to make it hard for you to talk in a normal voice. If you have diabetes symptoms that prevent weight bearing, you could try cycling or aerobic exercise in a pool. If you have balance issues, you can exercise on a stationary bike or a treadmill. Make sure to include a warm-up and cool-down period and some gentle stretching after muscles are warm.
Resistance Training Exercise for Diabetes
As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass. Resistance training, also called strength training, uses free weights, elastic bands, or exercise machines to build muscle.
“Resistance training improves musculoskeletal health, which can help older individuals maintain independence in doing daily activities," says Massey. "It may also improve cardiovascular function, strength, and body composition.”
Building up the muscles in all your major muscle groups helps you burn calories and use up sugar. “Some research suggests that a combined program including both aerobic and resistance training may benefit blood sugar control more than a program that simply includes one or the other,” adds Massey.
Ask your doctor what type and level of strength training is safe for you. In general, the best results come from doing about 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise two to three days a week. And always allow at least one day of rest between strength-training sessions.
More Tips for Healthy Aging and Exercise
Make sure you do everything you can to stay healthy enough for exercise as you age. Getting an annual flu shot, keeping your medications current, and seeking treatment for any age-related conditions that may affect your ability to exercise (such as eye and hearing problems, depression, or cognitive problems) are the best ways to keep exercising safely.
Massey recommends these golden rules for exercising with diabetes as you get older:
Include both aerobic and resistance training.
If you have complications from diabetes that affect your ability to be active, work with a physical therapist on a customized exercise plan.
Safety is key! Wear a medical ID bracelet, drink plenty of fluids, monitor your blood glucose before and after physical activity, and always carry something with you to treat low-blood glucose.
Establish an exercise support network. Find people who will support your goal to stay active, such as a workout buddy or family member.
Don’t forget to let your health care team know that you plan to start a new exercise program, as you might need medical clearance before starting certain types of exercises. Ask them how you can set realistic exercise goals.
Healthy aging and exercise are inseparable. In fact, the older you get, the more important exercise becomes. Talk to your doctor about the best program for you — and remember that it’s never too late to get started.