By Dana Frisch
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – High-intensity weight training coupled
with a moderate weight-loss program can help older men and women with
type 2 diabetes to improve their blood sugar control and also boost
their muscle strength and lean body mass, researchers report.
The added muscle is particularly beneficial to people with diabetes,
according to Dr. David Dunstan, the study’s lead author, because
muscles are “major clearance sites” for circulating blood sugar, or
glucose. In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to respond to
the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin, so high levels of glucose
can build up in the blood.
Dunstan is director of physical activity programs and research at the
International Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia.
The magnitude of the response, noted study co-author and institute
director Dr. Paul Zimmet, was surprising. “The effects of the
resistance training program were as great as those typically seen
with drugs for diabetes,” he explained.
The findings are published in the October 10th issue of the journal
The researchers assigned 36 people aged 60 to 80 to one of two
exercise groups: high-intensity resistance training and moderate
weight loss; or moderate weight loss plus a control program, for 6
months. Study participants in the control group did stretching
exercises instead of lifting weights.
The goal of the high-intensity lifting program is to train with
weights that are around 80% of the maximum poundage a person can lift
for one repetition. The weight-lifting patients did nine different
exercises three times a week that worked muscles in their legs, arms
and abdomen, and were closely monitored by staff.
A test of long-term blood sugar control showed significant
improvements in the weight-lifting group after 3 months of exercise,
and improved further by 6 months. People in both groups lost weight
and fat, but the weight-lifters showed gains in lean body mass while
those who didn’t lift weights showed losses.
Encouraging high-intensity weight lifting for people with diabetes
could reduce the risk of diabetes complications–which can include
eye and nerve damage, as well as kidney problems–in the long term,
Dunstan said. The more tightly blood sugar is controlled, the less
likely complications are to develop.
These results, said Dunstan, “support the recent recommendations of
the American College of Sports Medicine that resistance training
should be included as part of a well-rounded exercise program for all
people with type 2 diabetes.” Patients should consult their doctor
first before beginning training, he added.
Dunstan encourages gym owners to make gyms more accommodating to
older people so it will be less intimidating for them to work
out. “Who knows–for many gymnasiums this could be a totally untapped
market,” he said.
SOURCE: Diabetes Care 2002;25:1729-1736.