Regular weight training helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers have found

by Sarita Sheth on August 7, 2012

Combining weight training and aerobic exercise further reduces risk of type 2

Men who incorporate regular weight training into their exercise regime may be able to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 34%, according to researchers.

But it has to be regular to achieve this, some 30 minutes per day, five days per week, a new study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in Boston, US, and the University of Southern Denmark researchers has found.

And if they combine weight training and aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or running, they may be able to reduce their risk even further by up to 59%.

This is the first study to examine the role of weight training in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. The results from 32,002 men suggest that, because weight training appears to confer significant benefits independent of aerobic exercise, it can be a valuable alternative for people who have difficulty with the latter.

Information on how much time the men spent each week on weight training and aerobic exercise came from questionnaires they filled out every two years. The researchers adjusted for other types of physical activity, television viewing, alcohol and coffee intake, smoking, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, and a number of dietary factors. During the study period, there were 2,278 new cases of diabetes among the men followed.

The findings showed that even a modest amount of weight training may help reduce type 2 diabetes risk. The researchers categorized the men according to how much weight training they did per week; between one and 59 minutes, between 60 and 149 minutes, and at least 150 minutes and found that the training reduced their type 2 diabetes risk by 12%, 25%, and 34%, respectively, compared with no weight training.

Aerobic exercise is associated with significant benefits as well, the researchers found it reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%, 31%, and 52%, respectively, for the three categories above.

The researchers also found that the combination of weight training and aerobic exercise confers the greatest benefits. Men who did more than 150 minutes of aerobics as well as at least 150 minutes of weight training per week had a 59% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

‘Until now, previous studies have reported that aerobic exercise is of major importance for type 2 diabetes prevention,’ said lead author Anders Grøntved, visiting researcher in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and a doctoral student in exercise epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark.

‘But many people have difficulty engaging in or adhering to aerobic exercise. These new results suggest that weight training, to a large extent, can serve as an alternative to aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes prevention,’ he added.

Type 2 diabetes is a major public health concern and it’s on the rise. An estimated 346 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and diabetes related deaths are expected to double between 2005 and 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

Grøntved said that further research is needed to confirm the results of the study as well as to analyse whether or not the findings can be generalized to women.

‘This study provides clear evidence that weight training has beneficial effects on diabetes risk over and above aerobic exercise, which are likely to be mediated through increased muscle mass and improved insulin sensitivity,’ said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH.

‘To achieve the best results for diabetes prevention, resistance training can be incorporated with aerobic exercise,’ he added.

Other HSPH authors included Eric Rimm, associate professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and Walter Willett, Frederick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jessica August 9, 2012 at 5:31 am

I wish they'd actually ASK type 2's who are women who do weight training! I lift weights precisely BECAUSE they help with my BG control. It may not work for every woman though, but I'd bet it would help and it would also help if they looked at how much weight is useful. Example : if you sat for an hour on the sofa, lifting a couple of baked bean tins, that might help build up muscle over time. But perhaps it only helps BG control if you lift heavier weights.

All I can say is I wish I had known about weight lifting when I was at school (it was considered rather 'unlady-like') since it might have prevented many complications I have today. i would like to advise type 2 women to at least give it a go, as it helps control my weight as well as my BG's


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