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Strength training may aid older men with diabetes

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A couple of workouts with weights per week may help older men manage their diabetes, even if they don't lose weight, a small study suggests.

The study of nine older men with type 2 diabetes found that a 16-week program of supervised strength training generally improved their sensitivity to insulin, a hormone key to regulating the body's blood sugar levels. The workout also trimmed the amount of fat the men carried around the middle, though their overall weight held steady.

Type 2 diabetes arises when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, causing blood sugar levels to soar. The disease is closely linked to excess weight and obesity, and proper diet, exercise and weight loss are cornerstones of managing the condition.

Recent studies, however, have shown that exercise, even without weight loss, can improve diabetics' insulin sensitivity, Dr. Javier Ibanez, the lead author of the new study, told Reuters Health.

Ibanez, a researcher at the Studies, Research and Sports Medicine Center in Pamplona, Spain, and his colleagues report the findings in the March issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Past research, Ibanez said, has shown that insulin sensitivity improves when fat is lost around the waistline. Exactly why strength training may cut abdominal fat, in particular, is unclear, according to the researcher.

There is particular interest, Ibanez said, in what strength training can do for older people with diabetes, since muscle mass and power decline with age.

Older adults should not, however, go it alone when it comes to weight-bearing exercise. A trained professional, Ibanez said, should help them devise a program and supervise them during exercise, at least in the beginning.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, March 2005.

DB Diabetics

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