Canadian researchers found that both aerobic exercise and resistance training helped people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. The exercises were especially effective if both types of exercise were done.

Something has already been known about exercise benefits on blood sugar levels. It was known that aerobic exercise improved glycemic control but the effect of other types of exercises was not known, especially the effects of resistance exercise that included lifting of weights to build strength, which was previously thought to be dangerous for some diabetes patients.

The study enrolled 251 sedentary adults with type 2 diabetes, between ages 39 and 70, who were not taking regular exercise. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: aerobics group that did 45 minutes of aerobic training, on treadmills and exercise bikes, three times a week; resistance group that did 45 minutes of resistance training, on weights, three times a week; combined aerobics and resistance group that did 45 minutes of aerobics and 45 minutes of resistance training three times a week and the control group that did no exercises.

Changes in participants' hemoglobin A1c value were measured at 6 months as well as changes in body composition, plama lipid levels and blood pressure. A1c represents changes in blood sugar and is expressed as a percentage. An absolute drop of 1.0 % in A1c reflects a 15 to 20 % reduction in heart attack and stroke risk, and a 25 to 40 reduction in risk of diabetes-related eye or kidney disease.

The study showed that A1c in the aerobics group dropped by 0.51 %, 38% in the resistance group, 97 % drop in A1c value in the combined exercise group compared to the no exercise group while the control group showed no change in A1c value after 6 months.

While there was a big change in blood sugar levels, no significant changes occurred in blood pressure and lipid levels among the groups.
The researchers concluded that either aerobic or resistance training alone improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes and that these improvements were even greater with combined exercises.

Dr Sigal, the study’s lead author, said that if such findings were related to some kind of pills, experts would be quick to incorporate them into practice guidelines. He suggested that the findings should encourage all clinicians to include exercise advice and counselling as part of treatment for type 2 diabetes.