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Diabetics shouldn't resist resistance exercise

November 3, 2008 | 12:01 pm

The one-two punch of aerobics and resistance training is the preferred method of getting into shape. But now a new study shows that the combination can also do wonders for people with Type 2 diabetes.

WeightsA program combining aerobics with resistance training showed better results for diabetics than aerobics alone, according to a study that appears in this month’s issue of the journal Physical Therapy.

A small group of diabetics participated in a 16-week supervised exercise program; seven were assigned to an aerobic and resistance training routine, while eight just did aerobics. At the end of the 16 weeks both groups showed improvements in glucose control and walking distance, and resulted in less fat in the leg muscles. However, the group that added eccentric resistance exercise, in which muscles are elongated, resulting in increased strength and muscle size, also had a lower body mass index and an increase in lean thigh tissue.

That increased muscle mass is important, the researchers report, since low levels of muscle mass may be connected with less function in the lower extremities and less mobility in older people. There also may be a link between Type 2 diabetes and a risk of falling.

"Although aerobic exercise is what is typically recommended for treating people with diabetes, this study shows that adding a high-force strength training component has significant advantages," said Robin Marcus, the study’s lead researcher, in a news release. The associate professor in the physical therapy and exercise and sport science departments at the University of Utah said, "Adding resistance training to the diabetes treatment regimen leads to improved thigh lean tissue which, in turn, may be an important way for patients to increase resting metabolic rate, protein reserve, exercise tolerance, and functional mobility."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig / L.A. Times

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