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Aerobic Exercise vs. Weight Training for Lowering Your Diabetes Risk

Replacing fat with muscle may be good for your figure, but which type of exercise is best for reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes? According to the 2016 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, published in Diabetes Care, both aerobic exercise and weight training have value in this effort. In addition, the 2016 standards emphasize the importance of avoiding long stretches of time being sedentary.

Long-established evidence shows that aerobic exercise may help reduce diabetes risk and diabetes complications, but the 2016 standards point out that adding weight training to your exercise program could increase these benefits. Weight training as a stand-alone intervention has been found to reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood glucose control, 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. In view of this, the authors of the 2016 standards said that “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 2016 standards:

  • Aerobic exercise: Adults with diabetes should engage in moderately-intense aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, or vigorous aerobic exercise for at least 75 minutes per week, spread over at least three days with no more than two days in a row without exercise.
  • Weight training: People with diabetes should engage in muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups in the body on at least two days per week.
  • Sedentary time: All individuals, including those with diabetes, should limit the amount of time they spend in sedentary activities and interrupt extended periods of sitting (longer than 90 minutes) by briefly standing or walking.
  • Getting started: Starting with short periods of low-intensity exercise and gradually increasing both the intensity and duration is the best approach for people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Each person’s age, fitness level, and health, should be considered when developing an exercise program.

Source: Diabetes Care

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