A fitness plan to beat diabetes

The combination worked best for weight loss too, compared to aerobics or weight training alone.

Blood sugar is fuel to muscles, and more sugar is burned during aerobic activity. Weight training builds more muscle, and both activities change muscle proteins in ways that enhance the process.

“It’s clear that doing both aerobic and strength training is superior to either alone,” said lead author Dr Tim Church of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre. “It’s almost like taking two different drugs.”

Patients in the study, published in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, achieved the results over nine months, exercising three days a week for about 45 minutes each session.

“People can manage this amount of exercise,” said Laurie Goodyear of Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston, who wasn’t involved in the new study but does similar research. “They didn’t have to go on a diet. This was purely an exercise effect.”

Three programmes

The researchers’ goal was to test three exercise programmes that doctors could realistically recommend and patients could stick with. They compared aerobics alone, weight training alone and a combination. US guidelines recommend aerobics and weight training combined for all adults.

All three groups worked out for about the same amount of time. A fourth group of patients was offered only weekly stretching and relaxation classes for further comparison. The study was completed by 245 people with diabetes.

Led by trainers, patients walked on a treadmill that raised the uphill grade by 2 per cent every two minutes for the aerobics.

Weight training, also supervised, was done on machines that worked muscles in the upper body and legs, with more weight added as participants increased their strength.
“It gave me a lot more energy. That was one of the first things I noticed,” said Deidra Atkins-Ball, 44, a biology professor, diagnosed with diabetes a year before she joined the aerobics-weights group.

The researchers found that only the group that combined aerobics and weights both lowered their blood sugar and lost weight, although all three groups reduced their waist sizes.

Forty-one per cent of the patients in the combo group either decreased their diabetes medications or lowered their average blood sugar as measured by a common blood test, compared to 26 per cent for weights only, 29 per cent for aerobics only and 22 per cent in the non-exercise group.

Atkins-Ball’s results were good. She dropped 4 pounds and saw her blood sugar reach near normal levels.

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