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Muscle Strengthening Activities Could Help Protect against Diabetes

Performing certain activities as little as 30 minutes per week could help reduce risks…. 

In this prospective study, two previous studies were analyzed to identify if increased muscle-training activities could help reduce the risk of developing diabetes in middle aged women. The two previous trials were the Nurses’ Health Study (2000-2008), and the Nurses’ Health Study II (2001-2009). For these previous trials the age ranges were 53-81 years and 36-55 years respectively. These studies contained a total of 99,316 women, and each participant was followed for 8 years.

The amount of muscle strengthening activity was self-reported from the participants and divided into categories according to the amount of times spent in minutes per week. Muscle strengthening activities were defined as resistance exercises, low intensity muscle strengthening exercises, and aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activities. The categories were 1-29 min/week, 30-59 min/week, 60-150 min/week, and >150 min/week. After analysis of the information using Cox regression, the pooled relative risk for the women falling into these activity categories were 0.83, 0.93, 0.75, and 0.60 respectively, as compared to the women in the study who reported performing none of the muscle strengthening activities.

The activities which appeared to be the most beneficial in diabetes risk reduction included aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activities for >150 min/week, as well as >60 min/week of activities that targeted muscle strengthening. This study suggests that middle-aged women could help reduce their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes if they perform muscle strengthening exercises such as weight training, yoga, aerobics, stretching, and toning.

Practice Pearls:
  • Middle aged and older women may decrease their risk of developing diabetes if they engage in muscle strengthening exercise.
  • The most active women had a relative risk of diabetes of 0.60 as compared to the inactive women.
  • The most benefit occurred in the group which engaged in aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activities for >150 min/week. 

Plos Medicine, January 2014