Strength training could help to lower blood glucose levels and liver fat in people with type 2 diabetes, even before weight loss occurs, research suggests.

Brazilian researchers aimed to investigate the effects of short-term strength training on obese mice to see how it affected liver health.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has a positive correlation with obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and there is minimal research into the effects of short-term strength training on liver fat.

The University of Campinas (UNICAMP) study comprised of separating mice into three groups. One group followed a standard diet and lived a sedentary lifestyle, the second followed a high-calorie diet for 14 weeks and also remained sedentary, and the third group followed a high-calorie diet but also completed two weeks of strength training.

The research team wanted to look at the direct benefits of the exercise without any other factors coming into play, so they only staged the weight exercises for 15 days.

According to the findings, the mice that exercised had significant improved blood glucose levels compared with both sets of sedentary mice. The mice that exercised also had 25-30% reductions in liver fat and a lower number of inflammation-causing proteins. These findings existed independent of weight loss.

While the findings only apply to animal models so far, it may be significant that the exercise group experienced improved insulin sensitivity because this could indicate strength training as a treatment approach for people with NAFLD.

“The liver should produce glucose only under fasting conditions, but if insulin signalling in tissue is impaired, the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream even after ingestion of carbohydrate, when insulin levels are high, and this raises the level of blood sugar,” said the study’s author, Professor Leandro Pereira de Moura.

The researchers now plan future studies to validate their findings and understand more about the benefits of strength training on liver tissue.

The study was published on the Journal of Endocrinology.

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