Exercise May Have Benefits Beyond Fitness in Type 2 Diabetes

Study finds aerobics or strength training can improve blood sugar levels, lower body fat and waist size

WEDNESDAY, June 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise appears to benefit people with type 2 diabetes in a number of ways, a new analysis suggests.

In a randomized trial, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas compared different strategies of exercise for people with type 2 diabetes. They found that people who exercised had lower body fat, smaller waist size and better blood sugar control than people who were inactive.

The positive effects of exercise were seen whether people did aerobic exercise, resistance training or a combination of the two. People also saw positive effects from exercise even if they didn't have any improvement in their heart/lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness, the investigators found.

"What we observed is that exercise improves diabetes control regardless of improvement in exercise capacity," co-author Dr. Jarett Berry, associate professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences at UT Southwestern, said in a center news release.

The study was published June 17 in the journal Diabetes Care. It was based on an analysis of findings from the Health Benefits of Aerobic and Resistance Training in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes (HART-D) trial, a randomized, controlled study, the researchers said.

About 30 percent of people who exercise are considered non-responders, the researchers said. That means they can't improve their cardiorespiratory fitness despite regular exercise.

The fact that some of the diabetes patients who exercised didn't have improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness, but still gained other health benefits, "suggests that our definition of 'non-responder' is too narrow. We need to broaden our understanding of what it means to respond to exercise training," Berry said.

Exercise programs for type 2 diabetes patients should track improvements in blood sugar control, body fat and waist size, the researchers suggested.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about diabetes and exercise.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Updated on June 18, 2015

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