Women who regularly work out at the gym, with a particular focus on muscle-strengthening, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new U.S. study.
To establish whether muscle-strengthening exercises are beneficial for the prevention of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in women, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health followed up nearly 100,000 middle-aged and older women in America over a period of eight years.
None of the women had diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline, but during follow-up 491 cases of T2D were reported.
The team analysed the amount of time the women spent performing various types of physical activities each week to examine the influence of these exercises on T2D risk. The activities included muscle-strengthening exercise (e.g. weightlifting), lower intensity muscular conditioning exercises (yoga, stretching, toning), and aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activity (aerobic MVPA).
After taking into account major T2D risk factors and aerobic MVPA, they found that both muscle-strengthening and muscle-conditioning exercise were independently linked with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, with women who spent at least 150 minutes a week performing these types of exercise some 40% less likely to develop the disease as women who did no exercise of this type.
The biggest decline in diabetes risk, however, was seen in women who combined at least 60 minutes a week of muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities with 150 minutes or more of aerobic MVPA.
The researchers concluded that while “engagement in muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes”, their findings also suggest that doing both aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercise “provides substantial benefit for [diabetes] prevention in middle-aged and older women”.
The findings were published online in the medical journal PLOS Medicine.

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