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Replacing fat with muscle may be good for your figure, but which type of exercise has the best effects? According to the 2016 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, published in Diabetes Care, both aerobic exercise and weight training have value. In addition, the new standards emphasize the importance of avoiding long stretches of time without movement.
Managing blood glucose levels is the number one goal for people with diabetes. Exercise interventions lasting eight weeks or longer have been shown to reduce levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood glucose control, in people with type 2 diabetes. In addition, exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and can help to preserve mobility in people who are overweight and have diabetes.
Aerobic exercise has long-established benefits in helping to reduce diabetes risk and diabetes complications, but the new standards point out that adding weight training to your exercise program could increase these gains. Weight training as a stand-alone intervention has been found to reduce HbA1c levels in older adults with type 2 diabetes, and exercise programs that combine aerobic and weight training exercise have been found to have more HbA1c-lowering effects in adults with diabetes than either type of exercise alone.
“Exercise has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, contribute to weight loss, and improve well-being,” the authors of the standards said. “On the basis of physical activity studies that include people with diabetes, it is reasonable to recommend that people with diabetes will specifically benefit from following the US Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines.”
Here are the exercise guidelines described in the standards:
Obesity, especially abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance (when insulin no longer works efficiently to control blood sugar levels) are the most important components of metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions, such as high blood pressure and large waistline, that are linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Scientists are still working out the causes, but ways to reduce your risk and help address metabolic syndrome are well established:
(Diabetes Care 2016;39:S23–S35. doi:10.2337/dc16-S006.)