Women with type 2 diabetes who are older and overweight could find exercise more difficult, according to a new study.
Amy Huebschman, MD, MS, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and her team hypothesised that older women with type 2 diabetes have a higher Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) compared to older women without type 2. RPE measures the intensity of exercise.
The researchers noted that previous studies showed the effects of type 2 diabetes on exercise and cardiovascular function are typically worse among females.
54 overweight women aged between 50 and 75 were enrolled, approximately half the participants had type 2 diabetes. The women reported doing less than one hour of physical activity per week before the study.
The participants were asked to exercise on a stationary bike, with the length of exercise similar to the intensity required to walk one mile in 25 minutes. Lactate levels were measured throughout, which increase in proportion to the level of exercise, and the women reported how difficult they found the exercise.
Significantly higher lactate levels were observed among the women with type 2, who also scored higher on RPE. Huebschmann suggested these findings mean day-to-day activities such as climbing the stairs could be harder for women with type 2.
Huebschmann and colleagues wrote: “Exercise effort is an important barrier to physical activity because it is modifiable and the perception of more intense effort during exercise has been associated with lower levels of usual physical activity.
“Problems with metabolism and the body’s response to exercise may be an important driver behind both lower fitness levels and greater effort during exercise for people with diabetes.”
One possible theory for this impaired exercise performance could be that people with type 2 diabetes have difficulty converting dietary nutrients into fuel for muscles, but the researchers add that further studies need to be conducted to investigate this.
Huebschmann added that clinicians should encourage patients with type 2 diabetes to be physically active at a pace that is comfortable, which could lead to good adherence and health benefits.
“If possible, all adults should gradually increase their activity to target at least 30 minutes of activity on most days, as this leads to many major health benefits. It’s fine if people reach these goals in short intervals, such as 10-minute brisk walks.”
This study was published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care.

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