A study that’s been nearly two decades in the making is shining some new light on the benefits of weight training. Researchers from the Harvard University of Public Health have found that this popular form of exercise not only provides bigger biceps, but may also help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
It’s long been known that weight training is an extremely beneficial form of exercise, but more recently experts have been touting that it’s one of the best activities a person can do over a lifetime. Recent studies have even suggested it can improve memory and brain function, strengthen bones and connective tissue in children, help a person quit smoking, and even help breast cancer patients recover more quickly.
Author and health researcher Timothy Caulfield, whom we interviewed earlier this year for his book “The Cure for Everything,” even selected weight training as the one activity he would do to reap the most benefits if he had to choose just one. Knowing he tested every exercise theory out there, we place a fair amount of confidence in his opinion.
And Harvard researchers agree, saying weight training may be as effective at preventing diabetes as other aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and biking.
To conduct the study, researchers followed the fitness habits of approximately 32,00 men for nearly 20 years. They found that the men who performed 30 minutes a day of resistance training saw a 34 percent decrease in their risk for diabetes, compared to those who didn’t exercise. And those who performed 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity saw a 52 percent lower risk of diabetes compared with those who didn’t exercise.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that the best form of exercise to prevent diabetes is a combination of ‘steady aerobic exercise’ combined with weight training for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Compared to the groups who did just weight training and just aerobic exercise, those who did a combination of the two saw a 60 percent decrease in diabetes risk.
As reported by the Boston Globe, Dr. Mitchell Katz has become an advocate for this new research as he wrote in a recent editorial piece accompanying the study. “I cannot help but note that none of the time I spend trying to decide whether to increase the dose or add a new medication for my patients with type 2 diabetes is likely to result in a 38 percent reduction in mortality,” he said. He now encourages other doctors to prescribe exercise for patients with pre-diabetes and diabetes as it’s a much more effective long-term solution than medication.
For those afraid or unsure of how to start a weight training regimen, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Weight Training, or summon the help of a fit friend or personal trainer who might be able to guide you through the process. Getting over that uncomfortable first ‘hump’ may be difficult, but it’s well worth enduring when you consider the many benefits this dynamic exercise provides.