According to Robin L Marcus, PT, PhD, OCS, assistant professor at the University's Department of Physical Therapy, combining aerobic and high-force eccentric resistance exercise will not only improve glucose control it will also perk up physical performance, and body fat composition.
"Although aerobic exercise is what is typically recommended for treating people with diabetes, this study shows that adding a high-force strength training component has significant advantages," said Marcus, who is also a spokesperson of American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
Following the escalating costs and serious side effects of diabetes drugs, Marcus suggests that diabetics and their health care providers should be encouraged that physical therapy has been shown to be a cost-effective and safe treatment alternative.
During the study, the researchers evaluated 15 people with type 2 diabetes who participated in a 16-week supervised exercise training program: seven in a combined aerobic and eccentric resistance exercise program, and eight in a program of aerobic exercise only.
They found that after 3 months, both groups showed improved glucose control and physical performance in a 6-minute walk, as well as a decrease in fat composition within the leg muscles.
"This study is particularly interesting because the patients who did both aerobic and resistance exercise had additional improvements, most notably a decreased overall BMI and a gain in leg muscle," said Marcus.
"Although aerobic exercise is still key in treating diabetes, it should not be used in isolation.
"As people age, they lose muscle mass and, subsequently, mobility, resulting in a greater risk of falls. Adding resistance training to the diabetes treatment regimen leads to improved thigh lean tissue which, in turn, may be an important way for patients to increase resting metabolic rate, protein reserve, exercise tolerance, and functional mobility," she added.
The study is published in the November 2008 issue of Physical Therapy Journal (PTJ).