Objective: Despite the scientific community's recognition of the importance of exercise, little is known about the epidemiology of exercise among persons with diabetes in the U.S. Our goals were to examine whether people with diabetes were more sedentary than people without diabetes, to examine the effect of activity limitations on the prevalence of exercise, and to examine whether the choice of activities differs among people with and without diabetes.
Research design and methods: We examined the 1990 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Supplement of the National Health Interview Survey to describe leisure-time physical activity patterns in a representative sample of the U.S. population with diabetes.
Results: People with diabetes were less likely to report exercising regularly than people without this disease (34.3 +/- 2.2% vs. 40.9 +/- 0.5%, P < 0.05). When the data were stratified by activity limitation status, no significant differences were observed. People with diabetes were equally likely to have engaged in exercise in the preceding 2 weeks and to have expended > or = 2,000 kcal/week as people without diabetes. Walking was the activity of choice for both groups: 49.2 +/- 2.1% of people with diabetes reported walking during the previous 2 weeks compared with 44.2 +/- 0.5% of people without diabetes (P < 0.05). People with diabetes were less likely to engage in jogging, aerobics, dancing, calisthenics, bicycling, weight lifting, several ball sports, and skiing than people without diabetes.
Conclusions: After adjusting for activity limitations and age, people with and without diabetes are equally likely to exercise. The majority of people with diabetes, like their nondiabetic counterparts, are not meeting national physical activity goals. Individuals with diabetes should be encouraged to exercise regularly in accordance with their capabilities, physical limitations, and personal interests.