Exercise improves gait, reaction time and postural stability in older adults with type 2 diabetes and neuropathy

J Diabetes Complications. Sep-Oct 2014;28(5):715-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 18.


Aims: For older adults with type 2 diabetes (T2DM), declines in balance and walking ability are risk factors for falls, and peripheral neuropathy magnifies this risk. Exercise training may improve balance, gait and reduce the risk of falling. This study investigated the effects of 12weeks of aerobic exercise training on walking, balance, reaction time and falls risk metrics in older T2DM individuals with/without peripheral neuropathy.

Methods: Adults with T2DM, 21 without (DM; age 58.7±1.7years) and 16 with neuropathy (DM-PN; age 58.9±1.9years), engaged in either moderate or intense supervised exercise training thrice-weekly for 12weeks. Pre/post-training assessments included falls risk (using the physiological profile assessment), standing balance, walking ability and hand/foot simple reaction time.

Results: Pre-training, the DM-PN group had higher falls risk, slower (hand) reaction times (232 vs. 219ms), walked at a slower speed (108 vs. 113cm/s) with shorter strides compared to the DM group. Following training, improvements in hand/foot reaction times and faster walking speed were seen for both groups.

Conclusions: While falls risk was not significantly reduced, the observed changes in gait, reaction time and balance metrics suggest that aerobic exercise of varying intensities is beneficial for improving dynamic postural control in older T2DM adults with/without neuropathy.

Keywords: Balance; Exercise; Neuropathy; Type 2 diabetes; Walking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / therapy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture*
  • Reaction Time*