Washington D.C.: Building muscle strength may be one way to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, a recent study suggests.
The study, which involved over 4,500 adults, found that moderate muscle mass reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 32 per cent. The benefits were independent of cardiorespiratory fitness, and higher levels of muscle strength did not provide additional protection.
According to the researchers, the results are encouraging because even small amounts of resistance exercise may be helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes by improving muscle strength. However, it is difficult to recommend an optimal level as there are no standardised measurements for muscle strength.
“Naturally, people will want to know how often to lift weights or how much muscle mass they need, but it’s not that simple,” said DC Lee, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“As researchers, we have several ways to measure muscle strength, such as grip strength or bench press. More work is needed to determine the proper dose of resistance exercise, which may vary for different health outcomes and populations,” Lee explained.
Study participants completed chest and leg presses to measure muscle strength. Those measurements were adjusted for age, gender and body weight as potential confounders, which is an example of why researchers say it is complicated to provide general recommendations.
While several factors contribute to muscle strength, according to Angelique Brellenthin, one of the lead researchers, resistance exercise is important. Information on resistance exercise was not available for most participants, with the exception of a small group, which showed a moderate correlation between muscle strength and frequency or days per week of resistance exercise.
Other research has found resistance training improves glucose levels and reduces waist circumference – an indicator of excess fat associated with type 2 diabetes and other health issues, Brellenthin said.
“You’re not necessarily going to see the results of resistance training on your bathroom scale, but there are several health benefits. It may help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes even though you do not lose body weight, and we know maintaining muscle mass helps us stay functional and independent throughout life,” said Brellenthin.
Based on self-reports, Brellenthin says only 20 per cent of Americans meet the guidelines (two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities) for resistance exercise. While data for the study are not sufficient to provide suggestions for weight training, she says some is better than none. Getting started does not require a gym membership or expensive equipment. In fact, you can start at home by doing body-weight exercises.
“You can get a good resistance workout with squats, planks or lunges. Then, as you build strength, you can consider adding free weights or weight machines,” Brellenthin explained.