Physical activity leads to significant improvement in blood sugar control for type 2 diabetics

A structured exercise program, whether it includes aerobic workouts or resistance training, may help individuals with type 2 diabetes improve their blood sugar control, according to a new study from a team of Brazilian researchers.

It was already established that exercise can help type 2 diabetics improve their condition and reduce their risk of experiencing complications. However, various studies delivered mixed results concerning the most beneficial type of exercise. The new findings, which were published in Journal of the American Medical Association, may bring clarity to the matter and enable public health officials to make more concrete recommendations.

For the study, researchers from the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil analyzed data from 47 previous clinical investigations into the benefits of exercise. Each of these trials lasted at least 12 weeks, and they collectively studied 8,583 individuals.

After analyzing these reports, the team found that both aerobic exercise and weight training led to significant declines in participants' HbA1c levels, which measure long-term blood glucose control. Strong results were also seen in individuals who combined the two activities. However, these benefits were only achieved when paired with dietary improvements.

The researchers said that the bottom line is that physical activity is among the most important things a person with type 2 diabetes can do to improve their condition.

"This systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrates important findings regarding the prescription of structured exercise training," they wrote in their report. "Combined physical activity advice and dietary advice was associated with decreased HbA1c as compared with control participants."

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr. Marco Pahor of the University of Florida wrote that the findings should urge public health policymakers to design new programs that help individuals with type 2 diabetes become more active.