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Does Exercise Really Help Those with Type 2 Diabetes?

New analysis suggests either aerobics or strength training can improve blood sugar levels, lower body fat and waist size, more…

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.

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

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.

Practice Pearls:

  • This study was probably over the 500th study showing that physical activity is good for everyone, but especially those with diabetes.
  • Physical activity is not just for those with diabetes.

Ambarish Pandey. Metabolic Effects of Exercise Training Among Fitness Nonresponsive Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The HART-D Study. Diabetes Care. Published online before print June 17, 2015, doi: 10.2337/dc14-2378.