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Saturday | 5.26.2018
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Exercise Helps Diabetic Seniors Report Better Health, Study Shows

Two-thirds of diabetic seniors who participated in a study of the effects of exercise reported better health and may have positioned themselves to expect to live independently in their homes longer than might otherwise be likely.

Healthways Inc. and National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) reported the results of a diabetes demonstration project exploring the benefits of exercise in helping seniors manage chronic conditions and improve overall health. The n4a/Healthways Diabetes Demonstration Project included a customized 12-week Healthways fitness program geared towards seniors with diabetes. The study found that two-thirds of the demonstration project participants felt their health was much better or somewhat better at the conclusion of the program.

Fewer Hospitalizations Expected

“What we’ve learned from the evidence-based demonstration project with Healthways is that programs like this can help seniors with chronic conditions manage their health better and remain living independently in their homes longer,” said Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. “This is a great benefit to older adults and also to our country, as improved health means decreased hospitalizations and lower healthcare costs.”

Groups of seniors throughout the country participated in the Diabetes Demonstration Project, which provided access to customized exercise classes for older adults focusing on strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, health-education seminars and trained senior-fitness advisers.

Blood Pressure Down, Social Activities Up

All of the program participants had Type 2 diabetes with 42% having the disease more than 10 years. Specific to managing their diabetes, participants reported improvement in blood pressure, and there was an increase in the number of participants reporting A1C test scores of 7% or lower, the target set by the Mayo Clinic for patients in diabetes treatment. In addition to improvements in physical health, the program also had emotional and social benefits for the seniors who participated, with 74% attributing an increase in their social activities to the pilot program.

Following the 12-week program, participants were more likely to rate their health as “excellent” or “very good” (39% post-program compared with 28% pre-program). Also notable, at the start of the program, 29% of participants reported physical pain associated with exercise compared with 17% upon completion of the study. Participants also reported moderate shifts towards healthier eating, including increased intake of fruits and vegetables and moderate improvements in their functional fitness.

Step Toward Managing Chronic Disease

“This pilot confirms that with a properly designed and implemented program, seniors will take steps to better manage their well-being,” said Steve Brueckner, president of Healthways. “It is this unique approach to managing chronic disease that will yield a healthier population and positively affect healthcare spending in the U.S. We hope to utilize this information in assisting seniors with other chronic conditions in the future.”

The pilot program was conducted in collaboration with eight area agencies on aging located in seven regions, including: Phoenix, Ariz.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Wichita, Kan.; Manhattan, Kan.; Missoula, Mont.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Louisville, Ky.


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