Exercise plays a key role in any diabetes patient's effort to control blood sugar levels. Still, questions remain about the type, intensity and amount of exercise that is best for people with diabetes.
Both aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, running, swimming) and resistance exercise (e.g. weightlifting) can help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar, according to a recent study.
Researchers found that diabetes patients had larger drops in blood sugar the more exercise sessions they attended each week.
More specifically, it was aerobic exercise and combined exercise (aerobic plus resistance) that led to these reductions in blood sugar; not resistance training alone.
Research has shown that supervised exercise programs can improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes. However, it remains unclear what aspects of exercise are associated with reductions in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar over time), explained the authors in background information to their study.
Daniel Umpierre, MSc, of Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil, and colleagues looked at past studies to better understand the link between the intensity and amount of exercise training and changes to HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes.
The HbA1c test shows how well patients have been controlling their blood sugar over the past 3 months. An HbA1c level of 5.6 percent or less is considered normal. Diabetes patients have an HbA1c of 6.5 percent or more. The goal for many diabetes patients is to keep their levels at or below 6.5 to 7 percent.
They found that each additional session of aerobic exercise per week may reduce HbA1c by 0.39 percent.
While the amount of resistance exercise alone did not seem to affect levels of HbA1c, the amount of resistance exercise in combined training was associated with changes in HbA1c.
According to the authors, these finding highlighted the importance of exercise volume (frequency of exercise sessions) in improving blood sugar.