For older individuals with diabetes, any decline in balance control can be especially problematic since it is often a precursor to an increased risk of falling. This study was designed to evaluate differences in postural motion dynamics and falls risk for older individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) classified as fallers/non-fallers and, to assess what impact exercise has on balance and falls risk. The results demonstrated that the risk of falling is greater for those older individuals with multiple risk factors including diabetes and a previous falls history. The postural motion features of the high-risk individuals (T2DM-fallers) were also different, being characterized by increased variability and complexity, increased AP-ML coupling, less overall COP motion and increased velocity. One suggestion is that these individuals evoked a stiffening strategy during the more challenging postural tasks. Following training, a decline in falls risk was observed for all groups, with this effect being most pronounced for the T2DM-fallers. Interestingly, the COP motion of this group became more similar to controls, exhibiting decreased complexity and variability, and decreased velocity. The reciprocal changes in COP complexity support the broader view that age/disease-related changes in physiological complexity are bi-directional. Overall, these results show that, even for older T2DM individuals at greater risk of falling, targeted interventions can positively enhance their postural dynamics. Further, the finding that the pattern of postural motion variability and complexity was altered highlights that a decline in physiological complexity may not always be negatively associated with aging and/or disease.
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