FRIDAY, Oct. 19, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Regular exercise may slow the premature aging of the cardiovascular system that occurs in people with type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
A healthy adult loses about 10 percent of fitness with each decade of life after age 40 or 50, but research shows that fitness levels in people with type 2 diabetes are about 20 percent lower than in healthy adults.
This accelerated loss of fitness increases the risk of early disability and death, said Amy Huebschmann, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues.
"Not only do these patients have more trouble with exercise ... but also with activities of daily living, such as a simple stroll to the corner store," the researchers said in an American Physiological Society news release.
The investigators confirmed other research, however, that has found that regular exercise can slow premature cardiovascular aging in diabetes patients. The findings suggest that their fitness levels can improve by as much as 40 percent after 12 to 20 weeks of exercise training.
"In other words, these defects are not necessarily permanent," Huebschmann said. "They can be improved, which is great news."
Regular exercise, however, does not restore diabetes patients' fitness levels to those of healthy adults, according to the findings. The research was presented last week at an exercise conference in Colorado sponsored by the American Physiological Society, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal
Although exercise can benefit diabetes patients, it may be difficult for them to achieve the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Huebschmann and her colleagues are working on ways to help diabetes patients reach their exercise goals.
"Type 2 diabetes has a significant negative impact on health, but that impact can be improved with as simple an intervention as regular brisk walking or other physical activity that most people with diabetes can do," Huebschmann said.
More than 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, mostly type 2, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With type 2 diabetes, the body can't properly process glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how to stay healthy with diabetes.