07 August 2012
Has watching the world’s strongest men and women this week inspired you to take up weight lifting? Well, it might not be a bad idea, as a new study has suggested that the sport can also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if combined with aerobic exercise.
Previous research has shown that aerobic exercise (any activity that uses oxygen, raises your heart rate and makes you slightly breathless) and weight training can help to manage diabetes. However, this study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that weight training is also beneficial for reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This could be especially important for people who are less able to do aerobic exercise, such as elderly people.
Dr Leon Creaney, Sports and Orthopaedic Physician at the Bupa Musculoskeletal Centre London, commented: “This large study adds more concrete evidence to what we already know about the benefits of exercise on lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that men who did weight training or aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes each week had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who didn’t exercise. Men who carried out both types of exercise for at least 150 minutes per week had the lowest risk.
Whatever your reason for exercise, the best way to ensure all-round health and fitness is to aim for a combination of the different types of exercise - aerobic, weight and flexibility.
“Although this is an interesting piece of research, it’s important to highlight that the study had several limitations. Firstly, the participants self-reported their levels of physical activity, so they may have under or over-reported the amount of activity they carried out. Secondly, the study included mostly white men who were working health professionals, so we don’t know if the results apply to women or other ethnic groups, but it might be of similar benefit. Finally, the researchers didn’t look at the type or intensity of weight training and the different effects it may have on the risk of diabetes.
“Whatever your reason for exercise, the best way to ensure all-round health and fitness is to aim for a combination of the different types of exercise - aerobic, resistance and flexibility. The recommended level of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. If you aren’t used to doing exercise, doing something is better than nothing so start by exercising for short periods and gradually increase your time until you achieve your target. You should also include some resistance exercise two or three times a week. But this doesn’t need to be weight lifting – you could try gardening or carrying your shopping home instead of using the car. You should also include some flexibility exercise for a few minutes every day, such as gentle stretching.”
The researchers followed 32,000 men over 18 years, during which nearly 2,300 developed type 2 diabetes. They asked the participants to complete a questionnaire at the start of the study and every two years during the follow-up period on their exercise and lifestyle habits. This included the amount of time the participants spent weight training and doing aerobic exercise. The researchers also took into account family history of diabetes.
Produced in collaboration with Rebecca Canvin, Bupa Health Information Team.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition in which the body can’t control levels of glucose in the blood. It develops when the body can’t make enough insulin or doesn't respond to it.
It’s thought that resistance exercise helps people manage their glucose levels via a mechanism that doesn’t need insulin.
Moderate intensity exercise means your breathing is faster, your heart rate is increased and you feel warmer. Walking quickly, pushing a lawnmower or playing doubles tennis can help to keep your heart healthy and strong.
To ensure you reach the weekly recommended level of physical activity, you can try the following:
Grøntved A, Rimm EB, Willett WC, et al. A prospective study of weight training and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in men. Arch Intern Med published online first 6 August 2012. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3138