The benefits of exercise, particularly important for diabetics, who are at risk of having more functional disability, include reduced health care costs and better physical functioning. Yet, few seniors report participating in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity.
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Offering seniors with diabetes the opportunity to participate
in a subsidized community-based exercise program may help lower health
care costs, if the seniors attend the fitness classes regularly,
preliminary study findings suggest.
"These findings warrant additional
investigations to determine whether policies to offer and promote a
community-based physical activity benefit in older adults with diabetes
can reduce health care costs," conclude Dr. Huong Q. Nguyen, of the
University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington, and colleagues.
According to previous research,
nearly one in five Medicare recipients have diabetes, and
diabetes-related health care costs account for about a third of total
The benefits of exercise,
particularly important for diabetics, who are at risk of having more
functional disability, include reduced health care costs and better
physical functioning. Yet, few seniors report participating in regular,
moderate-intensity physical activity.
Observational data suggest that
health care costs can be greatly reduced among a previously sedentary
older adult who engages in moderate physical activity three days a week
or more. Nguyen and colleagues investigated whether a physical exercise
program offered to seniors as part of their Medicare benefit would also reduce health care costs and utilization.
They analyzed data from an HMO,
focusing on 163 seniors, aged 75 years on average, with diabetes who
participated in a community-based fitness program that was fully
subsidized by the HMO. For comparison, the study also included 364
adults who did not participate in the fitness program.
At follow-up, 12 months later, the
researchers found that total health care costs did not differ among the
two groups of seniors. However, health care costs among seniors who
attended more than the average number of fitness classes per week --
about one -- were roughly 41 percent less than among seniors who
attended fewer exercise sessions and among seniors in the comparison
group, respectively, Nguyen and colleagues report in Diabetes Care.
"We can not be sure if the exercise
actually reduced health care costs or if people who were healthier were
able to participate in more exercise classes and therefore had lower
health care costs," Nguyen told Reuters Health.
Still, Nguyen added, "in general, any
amount of physical activity is beneficial for everyone and it is even
more so for people with diabetes and other chronic conditions,
regardless of effects on health care costs."