Exercise should be an important aspect of one's health regimen, especially that of people with chronic diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A new study has found that, in addition to slowing the progression of the conditions themselves, regular physical activity can reduce the chances of disability.

In an analysis of 26 studies regarding diabetes' effect on mobility, researchers confirmed the link between diabetes and disabilities in the elderly. Similarly, with no difference discerned between studies about type I and II diabetes, researchers found a 50 to 80 percent increase in the risk for disability after a diabetes diagnosis.

"The reasons why diabetes is associated with physical disability are still unclear, although several mechanisms have been suggested," says Anna Peeters, Ph.D., of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia and co-author of this study. The complications associated with diabetes are other debilitating diseases, as well as disabilities themeselves. These diseases include heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke to name a few. Similarly, diabetes is also associated with a higher level of inflammation throughout the body, muscle weakness, and poor circulation in the extremities which, at its worst, could lead to amputation. Inflammation and muscles weakness can deteriorate wellbeing, and lead to serious issues like widespread infections of the blood and immobility.

The American Diabetes Association reports that diabetes can effect people of all ages, but its highest prevalence — at 27 percent — is in elderly population. "As the world's population ages, and diabetes becomes more common, it seems clear that we will see an increased need for disability-related health resources, which health systems around the world need to be prepared for," Peeters warns.

Disabilities are defined as anything that reduces mobility and independence to live one's life normally. In the studies compared, disabilities were defined as the inability to perform activities independently, like bathing, eating, using the phone, travelling, and shopping. Disability may lead to reliance on aids or moving to assisted living.

Losing one's independence can be a difficult change for many. However, not all diabetics are fated to become disabled or suffer from serious health consequences because of the condition. A 1999 study indicates that, along with treatment, physical activity can help manage diabetes and may even prevent disabilities linked to it altogether.

Mayo Clinic explains that physical activity is important because it controls weight, combats health conditions, and improves mood and energy. Diabetics, who must monitor their blood sugar levels, can benefit from exercise. The American Diabetes Association indicates that regular exercise is as important to diabetes management as medicines and meal planning. Diabetics reap more of exercise's rewards, as weight management, boosts in energy, and maintaining bodily health grow increasingly important in the face of their chronic disease.

The American Heart Association recommends moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes each week, or vigorous exercise for 75 minutes each week, regardless of age, gender, or chronic health conditions.

Source: Wong E, Backholer K, Gearon E, et al. Diabetes and risk of physical disability in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. 2013.