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Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Weight Training Reduces Diabetes Risk

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There’s no doubt that regular aerobic exercise reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even dementia, but much less is known about the effects of weight training. Some studies have shown that diabetics can benefit from weight, or resistance, training, but until recently, there was no good evidence that pumping iron could actually help to prevent diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is an enormous health burden, afflicting 26 million Americans, including one out of every four over the age of 65. Diabetes raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, infections, and limb amputations. The costs in terms of dollars spent and productive years of life lost are tremendous. While new medications and treatment strategies are improving survival and reducing complications of the disease, anything we can do to prevent it is well worth the effort.

Curious about the effects that different types of exercise might have on diabetes risk, researchers with the Health Professions Follow-Up Study evaluated over 32,000 men who were followed from 1990 to 2008. Every two years, the men completed questionnaires about the type and duration of exercise that they participated in.

When the data was analyzed, both aerobic exercise and weight training were found to lower diabetes risk, but the combination was even more powerful. By exercising 150 minutes each week with weight training alone, the likelihood of developing diabetes was cut by 34 percent. If the only form of exercise was aerobic training, those who logged at least 150 minutes each week lowered their risk by 52 percent. But when the study subjects combined weight training with aerobic exercise, the reduction in risk was 59 percent, as long as the total workout time equaled at least 150 minutes.

Although 150 minutes might sound like a lot, that’s only 30 minutes five days per week, or less than an hour three days per week. Considering that the average American watches TV at least five hours every single day, let’s be honest: you’ll be hard pressed to come up with a good excuse not to work in a little workout between those silly reality shows. And it’s hard to argue with a lifestyle change that has the power to help you feel stronger, look better, live longer, and spend less money on your healthcare. 

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Tags: Exercise

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About the Author


MD, FACC

Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.

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