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We know that regular exercise can help people with type 2 diabetes achieve better glycaemic control. Aerobic activities such as cycling or resistance training with weights can bring down serum concentrations of glycated haemoglobin. But these activities are even more effective when combined, according to a randomised trial.
Participants exercised three times a week for six months. Aerobic exercise reduced their glycated haemoglobin concentrations by 0.51 percentage points compared with inactive controls. Resistance training with weights had a similar effect (change −0.38 percentage points, P=0.038). Participants who did both forms of exercise achieved an extra reduction of 0.46 percentage points compared with the aerobic group and 0.59 percentage points compared with the weight training group. This extra glycaemic control could be clinically important say the authors. Each percentage point reduction means 15-20% fewer cardiovascular events.
The 251 participants in this trial were quite heavy, with an average body mass index of around 35. About a quarter of patients who exercised had musculoskeletal aches and pains or injuries. The exercise had no effect on their serum lipids or blood pressure.
Even so, this trial makes it clear that exercise is an important part of the treatment for type 2 diabetes, says an editorial (p 423). Doctors should remember to prescribe it.