Exercise is a very important tool used in the management of Type 2 diabetes. Exercise is just as important as diet and, in many instances, as important as drugs in managing diabetes. Researchers continue to investigate the merits of endurance-type (cardio) and resistance-type (strength training) activity. Most studies so far have looked at the benefits of either one or the other type of program.
Investigators in the Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre, in the Netherlands, reported results of a study comparing resistance and endurance-type exercises and their effect on 24-hour blood sugar in individuals with poor sugar tolerance and those with Type 2 diabetes.
Their study, published in the journal Diabetologia November 2011, included:
- 15 volunteers with impaired sugar tolerance,
- 15 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetics and treated with insulin, and
- 15 Type 2 diabetics treated with oral anti-diabetic medications.
They were all given the same diet for 3 days.
Their blood sugars were measured during a 24-hour period:
- after a 45-minute session of resistance-type exercise,
- a 45-minute session of endurance exercise, and
- a day of no exercise.
For all the three groups, blood sugar levels went down significantly during the 24 hours following their exercise program. Resistance and endurance exercises produced similar results. Abnormally high blood sugar readings were reduced by over one-third as the result of both types of exercise.
From these results it was concluded either resistance or endurance exercise could be helpful if it was incorporated into a regular program of treatment for Type 2 diabetes.
Endurance-type (or cardio) exercises are those that increase your pulse rate and the rate of breathing.
- fast walking,
- swimming, and
- bicycle riding are typical examples of endurance exercises.
Housework such as mopping and gardening activities, for example raking leaves, fall into the category of endurance activities, as does dancing. Parking far from the office and walking upstairs instead of taking the elevator can provide some physical activity throughout the day.
As endurance for the exercise is increased, so is general endurance, making people feel generally healthier after a hard week at the office or during final exams.
Research has found people with Type 2 diabetes who do eight weeks of aerobic exercise wind up with their HbA1c levels about 8 percent lower than nonexercisers.
Resistance-type (or strength training) physical activities are those in which muscles are moved against opposing forces.
- lifting free weight or using weight machines, and pushing against a wall are examples of resistance exercises.
- large rubber bands are sometimes used to provide resistance, or
- a person’s own body can provide resistance, as in performing push-ups.
This form of exercise builds muscle, and that extra muscle soaks up more blood sugar in the form of glycogen.
Consult your doctor first, plan an exercise program, and start your new exercise program.