Aerobic Versus Strength Training for People With Diabetes

“Resistance training, similarly to aerobic training, improves metabolic features and insulin sensitivity and reduces abdominal fat in type 2 diabetic patients,” according to a report in the current issue of Diabetes Care.

Italian researchers randomized 40 type 2 diabetics to follow either an aerobic or strength training program for four months.  The increase in peak oxygen consumption (VO2 peak) was greater in the aerobic group, whereas the strength training group gained more strength.  Hemoglobin A1c was similarly reduced in both groups, about 0.37%.  Body fat content was reduced in both groups, and insulin sensitivity and lean limb mass were similarly increased.  Pancreas beta-cell function didn’t change.

Per this one study, neither type of training seems superior overall.  If you’re just going to do one type of exercise program, choose your goal.  Do you want more strength, or more sustainable “windpower”? 

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center found somewhat different results in their larger and more complex study published in 2010.  However, they were primarily testing for diabetes control (as judged by hemoglobin A1c improvement), rather the improvements in strength or aerobic power.  The found the combination of aerobic and strength training is needed to improve diabetic blood sugar levels.  Both types of exercise—when considered alone—did not improve diabetes control. 

As for me, I do both strength and aerobic training.

By the way, I only read the abstract of the current research, not the full report. High-intensity intervals on a treadmill help me git’r done quicker.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: PWD = people or person with diabetes.  Do you like that term or would you prefer “diabetic”?

Reference:  Bacchi. Elizabeth, et al.  Metabolic Effects of Aerobic Training and Resistance Training in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects
A randomized controlled trial (the RAED2 study)
Diabetes Care.  Published online before print February 16, 2012, doi: 10.2337/dc11-1655


Filed under Exercise

6 responses to “Aerobic Versus Strength Training for People With Diabetes

  1. Dr. Parker,

    If you don’t mind my asking, how does the interval training affect your blood sugar?

    Sam Knox

    • Don’t mind at all, Sam.
      I’ve never had hyperglycemia, so I haven’t bothered to check blood sugar after exercise. When I abandoned the office-based practice of medicine 11 years ago, I sold my blood glucose meter. I treat patients only in the hospital now.

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  3. Kris

    I prefer the term diabetic.

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