A new study led by Harvard School of Public Health and University of Southern Denmark researchers reports that men who do weight training regularly might reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 34%.
If they combine weight training and aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or running, they may be able to reduce their risk even further—up to 59%.
“Until now, previous studies have reported that aerobic exercise is of major importance for type 2 diabetes prevention,” said lead author Anders Grøntved, visiting researcher at Harvard School of Public Health. “But many people have difficulty engaging in or adhering to aerobic exercise. These new results suggest that weight training, to a large extent, can serve as an alternative to aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes prevention.”
Discover the Fountain of Youth in Your Muscles
The researchers, including senior author Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, followed 32,002 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1990 to 2008. Information on how much time the men spent each week on weight training and aerobic exercise came from questionnaires they filled out every two years.
The researchers adjusted for other types of physical activity, television viewing, alcohol and coffee intake, smoking, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, and a number of dietary factors. During the study period, there were 2,278 new cases of diabetes among the men followed.
The findings showed that even a modest amount of weight training may help reduce type 2 diabetes risk. The researchers categorized the men according to how much weight training they did per week—between 1 and 59 minutes, between 60 and 149 minutes, and at least 150 minutes—and found that the training reduced their type 2 diabetes risk by 12%, 25%, and 34%, respectively, compared with no weight training.
Aerobic exercise is associated with significant benefits as well, the researchers found—it reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%, 31%, and 52%, respectively, for the three categories above.
The researchers also found that the combination of weight training and aerobic exercise confers the greatest benefits: Men who did more than 150 minutes of aerobics as well as at least 150 minutes of weight training per week had a 59% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
“This study provides clear evidence that weight training has beneficial effects on diabetes risk over and above aerobic exercise, which are likely to be mediated through increased muscle mass and improved insulin sensitivity,” said Dr. Hu. “To achieve the best results for diabetes prevention, resistance training can be incorporated with aerobic exercise.”
Archives of Internal Medicine, online August 6, 2012. “A Prospective Study of Weight Training and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Men,” Anders Grøntved, Eric B. Rimm, Walter C. Willett, Lars B. Andersen, Frank B. Hu.
Departments of Nutrition (Mr Grøntved and Drs Rimm, Willett, and Hu) and Epidemiology (Drs Rimm, Willett, and Hu), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, Exercise Epidemiology Research Unit and Centre of Research in Childhood Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense (Mr Grøntved and Dr Andersen); Channing Division of Network Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston (Drs Rimm, Willett, and Hu); and Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway (Dr Andersen).
Support for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health