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Combined exercise for prevention and treatment of type II diabetes

Both aerobic exercise and resistance training help combat diabetes. Both methods work in a slightly different manner. Type II diabetes is the result of insulin failing to transport glucose from into the cells and is a result of insulin resistance. Aerobic exercise training can decrease insulin resistance by increasing the production of the hormone oxerin A, which is a hormone responsible for making insulin receptors more sensitive, therefore increasing glucose utilization (Alizadeh, Rahmani-Nia, Mohebbi, & Zakerkish, 2015). Aerobic exercise helps increases insulin sensitivity.

Resistance training also increases insulin sensitivity via slightly different mechanisms. Strength training increases GLUT-4 density and uptake, a glucose transporter that helps regulate insulin found in muscle and fat cells (Strasser & Pesta, 2013). Resistance training also enhances mitochondrial content and allows for better nutrient metabolism (Strasser & Pesta, 2013).

The question is now which type of training is better in treating diabetes. Like many things in exercise science, the answer is both. In a review Johannsen et al. (2016) found that combined resistance and aerobic training increases insulin sensitivity more than a single form of training. This is due to them both working to improve different markers involved in insulin resistance. Diabetics should engage in both aerobic and resistance training.


Alizadeh, A. A., Rahmani-Nia, F., Mohebbi, H., & Zakerkish, M. (2015). Effects of eight weeks aerobic exercise on plasma levels of orexin A, leptin, glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance in males with type 2 diabetes. Iranian Journal Of Diabetes & Obesity, 7(2), 62-68.

Johannsen, N. M., Swift, D. L., Lavie, C. J., Earnest, C. P., Blair, S. N., & Church, T. S. (2016). Combined aerobic and resistance training effects on glucose homeostasis, fitness, and other major health indices: A review of current guidelines. Sports Medicine, 46(12), 1809-1818.

Strasser, B., & Pesta, D. (2013). Resistance training for diabetes prevention and therapy: Experimental findings and molecular mechanisms. BioMed Research International, 2013, 1-8.