The objective of this study was to consider efficacy and effectiveness of physical activity for the prevention and management of NIDDM among minorities and older adults of the U.S. Relevant population trends and projections are discussed, followed by a review of the efficacy of physical activity based on theoretical, prospective cohort, and intervention studies. With few empirical studies available, the assessment of effectiveness is largely theoretical and focuses on potentially important issues for future studies among older adults and minorities. Efficacy studies have shown that moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with a one- to two-thirds lower incidence of NIDDM over 4–14 years and 15–20% lower glycosylated hemoglobin over 3–4 months among people with NIDDM. With physical inactivity prevalence at 60–70%, much work remains to be done to improve physical activity effectiveness. In the most vulnerable populations, physician referral and community involvement structured around stage of change and self-efficacy theories are suggested as the most promising approaches to promoting physical activity adoption and maintenance. Effectiveness or demonstration studies that test and build on stage of change, self-efficacy, and other concepts of physical activity promotion and outcomes would likely prove to be highly valuable investments for public health.

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