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Jul 10, 2014

Cardio and Strength Training Benefit Adults with Diabetes

Cardio and strength training help patients manage diabetes better than either type of exercise alone, finds study.

Together, cardio and strength training activities help patients manage diabetes better than either type of exercise alone, according to research published in the European journal, Diabetologia

This study reviewed the effect of aerobic and strength training on patients with type 2 diabetes—the most common type of diabetes in the United States. Aerobic exercise, often referred to as cardio, increases the heart and breathing rate over an extended period of time. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, swimming, running and dancing. In comparison, resistance training helps build muscle and includes activities like pushups, pull-ups, or lifting free weights. 

It’s well established that both types of exercise can benefit patients with diabetes, but researchers wondered if one was better than the other. But after comparing results of 14 trials including almost 1,000 patients, investigators found that incorporating both types of activities into an exercise regimen benefits patients the most. Not only did combination training help patients manage their blood sugar levels, it also improved cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight better than aerobic or resistance training, alone. Interestingly, they also found that patients with supervised exercise training saw more health benefits than those engaging in unsupervised physical activity. 

However, authors note that additional research is needed to better understand the impact of combined exercise training for diabetes management. Since many clinical trials were small and took place over a short period of time, researchers hope for larger trials that test the long-term effect of physical activity on diabetes management. In the meantime, authors still encourage a combined exercise program for patients with type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise combined with strength training has many potential health benefits, particularly for diabetic patients at increased risk for heart disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the best type of exercise for heart health?
  • Although physical activity is key to good heart health, there is no single exercise that’s best for everyone. Most adults should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity a week and engage in strength training activities at least twice a week. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate over an extended period of time and includes activities like walking, swimming or biking. Strength training helps build muscle and includes activities like lifting weights or doing pushups. Together, aerobic exercise and strength training can boost heart health and promote a healthy weight.
  • What is diabetes?
  • Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that cause high blood sugar, either because the body can’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t respond to insulin properly (or both). There are three main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin), type 2 diabetes (occurs when the body doesn’t use or make insulin the way it should) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy). Also, prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

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