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Aerobic/Strength Training Combo May Be Best Workout for Diabetics

In study, people with type 2 disease had better blood sugar control when both modes used

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WEDNESDAY, July 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of aerobic and resistance training may work better than either type of exercise alone in helping people with diabetes control their blood sugar, a new review finds.

Researchers analyzed data from 14 studies that included more than 900 people with type 2 diabetes. The studies looked at the role of aerobic or resistance training (workouts such as weightlifting) in boosting the health of diabetics.

Compared with either aerobic or resistance training alone, a regimen that combined both types of workouts was more effective in controlling blood sugar (glucose), blood fats, blood pressure and weight, the researchers said. The combination approach also helped more people reach higher levels of good cholesterol, according to the findings published July 2 in the journal Diabetologia.

The Austrian researchers added that there is evidence that supervised workouts are more effective than unsupervised training, but most people don't have access to the intense, supervised exercise routines used in the studies.

"Combined aerobic and resistance training can be recommended as part of a lifestyle program in the management of type 2 diabetes wherever possible," conclude the team led by Lukas Schwingshackl of the University of Vienna. They stressed, though, that more study is needed to confirm the findings.

One expert in the United States believes that exercise is always a good choice for people battling type 2 diabetes.

"Both aerobic and resistance activity are capable of reducing blood glucose," said Dr. Gerald Bernstein, director of the Diabetes Management Program at the Friedman Diabetes Institute, part of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

However, different modes of exercise might have different effects, he added.

"Resistance training builds muscles and thereby increases glucose utilization through increased muscle mass," Bernstein explained, while "aerobic training burns glucose on the spot."

Bernstein stressed that, "most importantly, some type of exercise regularly performed makes a big difference in management of blood glucose and reduced risk for complications."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about physical activity and diabetes.

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