Effects of Exercise Type on Glycemic Control

Short Bouts of Exercise vs. Regular Training for Type 1 Diabetes

Women doing aerobic exercise with free weightsThough exercise is widely regarded as an effective treatment for people with type 1 diabetes (to both improve their condition and benefit their health overall), the exact amount and type of exercise required may vary. In a study published in the journal Sports Medicine, a team of researchers in Belgium explored the effects of both acute and chronic exercise on patients’ management of their type 1 diabetes.

The study, “Effects of different types of acute and chronic (training) exercise on glycemic control in type 1 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis,” was conducted by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. It appears in the December 2012 issue of the journal. 

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of studies, using the following databases: PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge, and SPORTDiscus™. The study authors looked for prior research that examined the association between type 1 diabetes and exercise. Of the 937 studies identified, 33 met the researchers’ inclusion criteria and were used in the study results. The researchers used Cohen’s d statistics to determine the effect sizes (ES) for different types of exercises. 

The results of the study showed that the effects of short bouts of exercise on patients’ acute glycemic control were large, but they had small effects on chronic control. The researchers found that high intensity exercise, aerobic exercise, resistance training, and mixed exercise (a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training) all helped to decrease blood glucose levels in the short term.

On the other hand, engaging in a regular exercise training program was effective in helping patients with both acute and chronic glycemic control. However, these beneficial results were only seen with regular aerobic exercise—no significant improvements in chronic glycemic control were seen with ongoing resistance training, high-intensity exercise, or mixed exercise.

The researchers argue that their results demonstrate that single bouts of high-intensity exercise (such as sprints) may help reduce hypoglycemic episodes in patients when it is incorporated into aerobic exercise, but that only ongoing aerobic exercise helped patients with chronic glycemic control.

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