Study finds resistance training beneficial for type 2 diabetes

A study recently published in the journal Sports Medicine found that resistance training is beneficial in improving glycemic control, body fat percentage, as well blood lipids in those at risk for diabetes. While previous research has indicated that resistance training is an effective intervention for glycemic control and cardiometabolic health for people with type 2 diabetes, this study focused on determining the effects of resistance training on cardiometabolic risk factors in those at risk for type 2 diabetes and researching effective resistance program characteristics that are associated with preventing it.

According to Dr. Elise Brown, an assistant professor in OU’s School of Health Sciences and co-author of the study, resistance training consists of “types of exercises that you would think of like weight training and using resistance bands using your own body weight such as push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. You’re essentially producing a force against an external resistance, whether that resistance is a barbell or whether that resistance is the floor if you’re doing a push-up. It involves a muscular force producing a force against a certain resistance.”

The study’s lead author is Dr. Raza Qadir, a recent OUWB graduate, and the co-authors include Dr. Brown, Taylor Todd, a student in Oakland University’s School of Health Sciences, and Dr. Nicholas Sculthorpe, a professor in the School of Health and Life Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland. Dr. Brown also mentored Qadir throughout this project as a part of the OUWB Embark program, which allows medical students to gain project management and research skills while working with a faculty mentor.

“He [Raza Qadir] was an excellent student to work with,” Dr. Brown said. “He’s the first embark student that I’ve worked with, and he definitely set the bar really high.”

Data was pulled from clinical trials in which participants underwent resistance training and from clinical trials in which the participants did not in order to compare cardiometabolic outcomes. The data, analyzed by Sculthorpe, indicated that patients who used free weights or resistance bands at intensities above 60% one-repetition maximum, with 10-15 repetitions at a time, showed the most significant improvement in cardiometabolic outcomes. Additionally, the data indicated that resistance training over the course of a 12 week period or more is is effective in lowering blood sugar, body fat, and blood lipids of people in patients at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Exercise recommendations of the American Diabetes Association and American College of Sports Medicine for adults with type 2 diabetes agree with these findings.

When asked what the main takeaway of this study is, Dr. Brown emphasized early prevention and exercise are key. “As long as individuals do not have any contraindications to exercise or resistance training specifically, everybody should be doing resistance training starting as early as possible, to help prevent cardiometabolic diseases, specifically type two diabetes,” Dr. Brown said.