The objective of this study was to determine the impact of an aerobic physical exercise program in the treatment of a group of elderly patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) in relation to metabolic control, physical capacity, quality of life (QOL) and attitudes toward diabetes. Patients were randomly assigned to either an experimental (n=19) or a control (n=20) group. The following measurements were conducted at baseline and after week 16: glycosylated hemoglobin (hbA1c), fructosamine, 3 h oral glucose tolerance test, treadmill test (Balke-Naughton), and a questionnaire on QOL and attitudes toward DM. After the intervention, the experimental group showed a significant decrease of glucose excursion during the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) (area under the curve) (16.6+/-3.8 vs. 15.3+/-3.1, P<0.05) and an increase in total time on the treadmill (s) (423+/-207 vs. 471+/-230, P<0.05). An improvement in the attitudes toward DM was observed in the experimental group (P=0.01) but not in the control group. Female gender, higher body mass index and hbA1c were factors associated with a response to the intervention. This study suggests that physical exercise has significant effects on glucose excursion during an OGTT and exercise tolerance in elderly patients with type 2 DM.