For around 30 million children and adults diagnosed with diabetes in the United States, moderately intense exercise and a balanced diet can become just as important as their medication in regard to controlling their condition. A study conducted at the University of Vienna in Austria suggests that type 2 diabetes patients can effectively manage blood sugar and blood fat profiles by combining aerobic exercise training (AET) and resistance training (RT) rather than performing either activity on their own.

"Further high quality with long-term exercise interventions are needed to develop definitive recommendations. In the meantime, combined aerobic and resistance training can be recommended as part of a lifestyle programme in the management of type 2 diabetes wherever possible,” authors of the study said in a statement. “Due to the limited information on potential adverse effects of exercise, supervised workouts should be favoured, though of course we accept it is not possible for most people to have supervised workouts in the course of day-to-day living."

Lead researcher Lukas Schwingshackl and his colleagues from the University of Vienna examined data from 915 patients who participated in a total of 14 trials. The research team compared the outcomes of blood sugar control and blood fats profiles in diabetes patients who performed three different training exercises, including aerobic exercise training (AET), resistance training (RT), and combined training (CT). Each participant was tested for their HbA1c (a measures of blood sugar control), fasting glucose, good cholesterol, blood fats, diastolic blood pressure, and bodyweight. Although AET had a more pronounced effect on HbA1c compared to RT, CT outdid both exercise methods when it came to controlling blood sugar in diabetes patients. The authors did admit that more research was needed to confirm their results due to the low risk of bias included in the data that was used.

"It is possible that either AET, RT or CT may be easier to perform effectively without supervision, thus affecting the external validity of these results since only studies with supervised training were included," the authors added. “Compared with AET or RT, CT interventions resulted in significantly more pronounced improvements in variables related to blood sugar control. With respect to single types of exercise intervention, AET was more effective in reducing HbA1c and fasting glucose when compared with RT. However, the interpretation of these findings with respect to their clinical relevance is limited by the overall low to moderate quality of the studies included, the lack of information on clinically important outcomes, and the limited information on the adverse effects of exercise."

According to the American Diabetes Association, losing between 10 to 15 pounds can improve a diabetes patient’s blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Research also shows that exercise can increase insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to use any available insulin to take up glucose. Muscle contraction during physical activity stimulates a mechanism in cells that leads to the buildup of glucose to use for energy even when insulin is not available. Diabetes patients who exercise regularly can successfully lower the results of their A1C, the test showing a patient’s average blood glucose control for the past two to three months.