Diabetics have long been told that diet, medication and exercise are the key factors to controlling their condition. Researchers are now fine-tuning the advice on exercise to say that diabetics should combine both aerobic and resistance training in their exercise plans.
Dr. Robin Marcus and colleagues at the University of Utah released a recent report claiming that type 2 diabetics benefited more from exercise when resistance movements were added to a weekly exercise plan. Resistance training uses elastic bands or special equipment to strengthen muscles by applying continual pressure against the muscles during full range of motion.
In the study, resistance exercises were performed on a recumbent step machine where the volunteers used their legs to push against heavy pedals while sitting. For aerobic exercises, the volunteers spent time on treadmills, stair steppers or stationary bicycles.
Half the participants in the study did aerobic exercises and the other half did aerobic exercises along with the resistance training. After 16 weeks of exercising at three times per week, the group that incorporated resistance training had an improved overall body mass index (less fat) including leaner, stronger thigh muscles. Both groups showed improvements in blood sugar control and physical endurance.
An earlier study in 2007 from researchers at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada suggests that combining resistance and aerobic training may actually improve blood sugar control in diabetics beyond that seen from aerobic exercise alone.
A limitation to both of these studies is that the participants doing the aerobic and resistance training exercised for longer periods of time at each session than the participants doing only the aerobic training. More research with larger groups and improved controls on exercise time need to be undertaken to confirm the value of combined exercise therapy.
Nevertheless, combined exercises appear to help diabetes develop more muscle, increase strength and balance and enjoy their exercise programs more.