The association of diabetes complications with physical activity in a representative sample of older adults in the United States

Chronic Illn. 2013 Dec;9(4):251-7. doi: 10.1177/1742395313475461. Epub 2013 May 23.


OBJECTIVE Most adults with diabetes do not engage in the level of physical activity recommended for optimal disease management. Diabetes complications are not generally considered a clinical contraindication to exercise. No prior national studies have examined the associations of these complications with physical activity. METHODS Data are from the 2003 Diabetes Supplement to the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study (n = 1811; age >50 years). Multiple logistic regression was used to examine the association between diabetes complications and the odds of meeting physical activity guidelines. RESULTS Forty-three percent of the sample met physical activity guidelines. Adjusting for sociodemographic variables, retinopathy (odds ratios (OR) OR = 0.54, 95% confidence intervals (CI) = 0.36-0.81), nephropathy (OR = 0.70, 95% CI = 0.50-0.99), neuropathy (OR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.59-0.95), and heart disease (OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.51-0.94) were all independently associated with reduced odds of meeting guidelines. A borderline significant association was observed for stroke. DISCUSSION Adults with diabetes with complications of the eyes, kidneys, or nerves and those with heart disease are less likely to meet physical activity guidelines compared to those without these complications. These individuals may require additional support from health professionals to achieve recommended amounts of physical activity. More studies are needed to clarify the barriers and benefits to engaging in physical activity in the presence of diabetes complications.

Keywords: Diabetes; diabetic neuropathy; diabetic retinopathy; heart disease; physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Collection
  • Diabetes Complications / physiopathology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • United States