Prediabetes + Inactivity = Diabetes

Prediabetes, a condition identified by the American Diabetes Association in 2002, refers to an impairment in the body’s ability to maintain blood proper glucose levels. Because this impairment is not
as severe as the impairment of diabetes, prediabetes offers clinicians and their patients an opportunity to halt the process of impairment before it worsens and becomes clinical diabetes.

Prediabetes also offers opportunities for research into how to halt this process. A recent study published in The Journals of Gerontology presents a startling new insight into the importance of physical activity in preventing diabetes. Researchers examined the correlation between activity level, as determined by number of steps taken each day, and blood sugar level in a group of overweight pre-diabetics between the ages of 60 and 85.

Just a few days of physical inactivity, defined as fewer than 1000 steps per day, led to a significant decrease in muscle mass and strength. We have long known that you have to either “use it or lose it;” what was surprising here was how quickly the seniors “lost it” after a relatively short period of diminished activity.

Even more surprising, however, was that after just two weeks of inactivity, these prediabetics developed symptoms of full-blown diabetes. It stands to reason that since this change took place after a short period of inactivity, a quick return to a higher level of activity would reverse the change. In younger adults, that is the case, but not in older people. The study participants did not revert to prediabetes when increasing their physical activity level.

Researchers concluded that when older, overweight people who have already been diagnosed with prediabetes are expected to be off their feet for an extended period of time, their blood sugar needs to be managed in order to prevent diabetes. This management might include dietary change, other types of physical exercise, and perhaps even medication.

The implications of this study are significant: while 23 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes, more than 84 million have prediabetes. Preventing them from developing full-blown diabetes would be a significant public health success.

At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, our care programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients. We offer activities that stimulate both mind and body. We fashion each day’s recreation schedule with the primary purpose of encouraging social interaction and promoting physical health and fitness. To accommodate different interests and personal preferences, our Activities Director designs flexible schedules, with a variety of stimulating and engaging activity options.

It’s all part of our restorative approach, an approach that encourages each patient’s potential to maximize function, mobility, and an appreciation of life in a positive, upbeat environment.

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