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Resistance Exercise vs. Aerobic Exercise for Type 2 Diabetes: Which is Better?

When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, exercise plays a crucial role in improving glycemic control, reducing cardiovascular risk, and enhancing overall health. Both resistance exercise, which involves activities like weightlifting, and aerobic exercise, such as jogging or swimming, have been recommended as effective forms of physical activity for individuals with type 2 diabetes. However, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis sought to determine if one type of exercise is superior to the other in terms of effectiveness and safety.

The study, conducted by Zuyao Yang and colleagues, analyzed data from twelve randomized controlled trials involving a total of 626 participants with type 2 diabetes. The trials compared the effects of resistance exercise and aerobic exercise over a duration of at least eight weeks. Various parameters were evaluated, including glycemic control, blood lipids, anthropometric measures, blood pressure, fitness levels, health status, and adverse events.

The findings revealed that aerobic exercise led to a greater reduction in glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) compared to resistance exercise. However, this difference became statistically insignificant when sensitivity analysis was conducted. Other notable differences between the two types of exercise included changes in body mass index, peak oxygen consumption, and maximum heart rate, all of which favoured aerobic exercise.

Importantly, the study found no evidence to suggest that one form of exercise was superior to the other in terms of cardiovascular risk markers or safety. The relative risks for adverse events and serious adverse events were comparable between the resistance exercise and aerobic exercise groups.

Despite statistically significant differences in certain measures, the study concluded that these variations were not clinically significant. The researchers emphasized that the most important aspect is engaging in some form of physical activity rather than favouring one specific type of exercise over the other. Moreover, they highlighted the need for long-term studies focusing on outcomes that are relevant to patients with type 2 diabetes.

This systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that both resistance exercise and aerobic exercise are effective and safe for individuals with type 2 diabetes. While certain differences in outcomes were observed, they are not considered clinically significant. Therefore, individuals with type 2 diabetes should prioritize engaging in regular physical activity, regardless of the type, to achieve optimal health outcomes.

References: Yang Z, Scott CA, Mao C, Tang J, Farmer AJ. Resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2014 Apr;44(4):487-99. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0128-8. PMID: 24297743.

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