senior walking exercise

Just 2 weeks of inactivity can trigger Type 2 Diabetes, study finds

Does staying active matter when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes? According to recent research, the answer is a resounding YES – in fact, movement might be even more critical for prediabetics than previously thought.

The new study measured the impact of 2 weeks of inactivity had on older adults with prediabetes. Here is what they found in people who were inactive for two weeks:

  • Their skeletal muscle mass and strength significantly decreased;
  • They started showing insulin resistance, a sign of type 2 diabetes;
  • The damage appeared to be permanent – after going back to a more active lifestyle, participants did not return to the way they were beforehand.

The last point is particularly interesting. It suggests that it may be impossible for some seniors to return to a healthy state following a period of inactivity.

What considered a dangerous level of “inactivity” for prediabetics?

woman senior home alone inactiveIn this study, “inactivity” was defined as less than 1,000 steps per day. This reflects the activity level of a person classified as “homebound”. According to other studies, 39 percent of homebound seniors have diabetes compared to 11.4 percent of their more active and social counterparts.

Previous research has shown that healthy older adults walk between 2,000 and 9,000 steps per day. The average number of steps for a person of any age in the United States is 4,774.

How to manage diabetes and prediabetes with exercise

When people talk about managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, diet is typically the first thing that comes up. There is no doubt that diet is a crucial risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but this study shows that we may have been underestimating the importance of physical activity. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re moving enough each day:

  • Keep it simple. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or an extensive exercise regimen to move more each day. Go for a daily walk, play with grandchildren, or do some yard work to keep active. While fitness classes and treadmills are great for filling in the gaps and staying active during bad weather, you don’t need to change your life dramatically in order to move enough each day.
  • Talk to your doctor about your exercise plan. Going from no activity to an intensive exercise program can hurt your body instead of helping it. Discussing your lifestyle with a doctor will help you stay conscious of your blood pressure, heart rate and the sensitivity of joints and muscles.
  • Stay motivated. Pedometers or “step counters” are great ways to track your progress and motivate yourself.
  • Make it social. 30 million Americans have diabetes and 84 million have prediabetes, so chances are you can find a neighbor, family member or friend who could also benefit from physical activity. You can also attend group workouts or find local walking and hiking groups to join.
  • Stay hydrated and watch your blood sugar. Don’t neglect other aspects of your health, like hydration and diet! Bringing a water bottle and light, diabetes-friendly snack on your walks.

exercise tips for diabetes infographic

Protecting your feet as you exercise

Those who do have diabetes should also consider the health of their feet when taking on an exercise plan. Due to circulation issues and neuropathy, even a small blister can have serious long-term consequences for people with diabetes. For this reason, Medicare covers one pair of diabetic shoes and two pairs of therapeutic inserts per year for people who have diabetes and foot issues.

If you are receiving Medicare or other insurance support for type 2 diabetes and would like more information about diabetic shoe coverage, our team at would love to help you out! Click here to order our catalog or call us at 1-866-923-2423 for more information.

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