Resistance training: Prevent type 2 diabetes by building more muscle
07/21/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Resistance training is not only for people who want to build muscles. New research shows that this type of exercise helps prevent Type 2 diabetes, particularly in high-risk people.

Researchers from China and the U.S. looked at the long-term effects of aerobic training, resistance training, and a combination of both on the prevention of Type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. They recruited 172 people who were 55-75 years old and had prediabetes. Then, they randomly divided the participants into four groups: one group served as the control group; another group received aerobic training; the third group participated in resistance training; and the fourth group performed a combination of aerobic and resistance training. The participants attended their designated supervised exercise programs for one hour per day, three non-consecutive days every week for two years.

Aside from assessing the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, the research team also measured the participants’ blood sugar and lipid levels, such as total cholesterol and standard two-hour oral glucose tolerance.

After two years of intervention, the researchers found that the incidence of Type 2 diabetes significantly declined in all exercise groups, with the combination exercise having the most impact. Compared with the control, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes decreased in the combined aerobic and resistance training by 74 percent. Type 2 diabetes incidence also declined in the resistance training and aerobic training groups by 65 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Furthermore, the cumulative diabetes incidences significantly dropped in all exercise groups compared with the control.


Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that resistance training alone and resistance training plus aerobic exercise were as effective as aerobic exercise alone in preventing Type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. The findings suggested that resistance training is a viable option for people who want to prevent or slow down the progression of Type 2 diabetes. The research team published their findings in the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews.

"This finding further expands established paradigms of lifestyle change for preventing Type 2 diabetes and can inform clinician-patient discussions about delaying disease onset," the researchers wrote.

Moderate-intensity resistance exercise can also prevent diabetes

A study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings revealed that moderate strength training and an increase in overall muscle mass could slash your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 32 percent.

A team of U.S. researchers recruited 4,681 adults and enrolled them in a resistance training program, which consisted of chest and leg exercises. The participants' ages ranged from 20 to 100 years old and are at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The research team measured the muscle strength as well as the fasting blood sugar of the participants during different points of the study. They also considered other factors that may contribute to Type 2 diabetes, such as age, gender, and body weight.

After a follow-up of 8.3 years, on average, the research team found that 229 of the participants developed Type 2 diabetes. However, participants with a middle level of muscular strength had a lower risk.

How it works

Resistance training works not by eliminating the need for insulin, but by helping the body burn glucose for fuel without additional insulin produced by the pancreas or via injection or pump.

Christel Oerum, a co-founder of Diabetes Strong who lives with Type 1 diabetes, told that during resistance training, muscle fibers tear apart. Those muscle fibers then must rebuild to get stronger. This requires more energy, further burning more glucose and calories after exercise. (Related: Research shows resistance exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes.)

Exercise alone can only take you so far. In addition to working out, you also must follow a healthy diet and practice healthy habits to protect yourself from diabetes and other illnesses.

Sources include:

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