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Exercise in Itself Improves Blood Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes

term, ranging from eight weeks to 12 months with most lasting less than six months.

“We were interested in whether a prescribed exercise regime versus no exercise regime would actually improve blood sugar control, and it did,” said Elliott. The researchers determined this by looking at the percent of glycated hemoglobin in the blood, also known as an A1C test. The American Diabetes Association considers A1C values to be the best indicator of long-term blood glucose control.

Participants who exercised had an overall decrease of 0.6 percent of A1C levels. While that may not sound like much, it represents a 30 percent improvement towards the goal of attaining an A1C of 7 percent, and a 20 percent improvement towards a normal A1C of 6 percent.

“This was a both a statistically and clinically significant drop,” said Elliott. “It’s comparable to the drop that clinicians would like to see if prescribing medication” to regulate blood sugar, she said.

“Many people with type 2 diabetes find when they start walking daily, for example, that blood sugar control becomes much easier. That’s been known anecdotally for a long time,” Elliott said. “Our study gives justification to the recommendation that exercise is important.”

Participants enrolled in an exercise program also lost significantly more fat around the abdominal organs and under the skin, compared to those who didn’t exercise.

Exercising participants didn’t actually lose any weight, however — probably because exercise helps replace fat with heavier muscle tissue, researchers said, and because the average length of the studies was too short to show weight loss. Muscle tissue helps in the metabolism of insulin and blood sugar regulation.

Participants who exercised also experienced a significant lowering of blood triglycerides, which are often elevated in patients with diabetes. Excess triglycerides have been linked to coronary artery diseas
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