Endure or resist? 
Comparing aerobic and resistance training for Type 2 Diabetes


There is convincing scientific evidence that both resistance training and aerobic training are both beneficial for managing diabetes. But which mode is more effective? Researchers from Hong Kong and Oxford University, published a systematic review and meta-analysis in 2014 comparing the effect of the two modes of exercise on HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, insulin sensitivity, total cholesterol, high density lipoproteins, low density lipoproteins, triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, body fat percentage, peak oxygen consumption, maximal heart rate, health status and other adverse events.

The summary of findings are listed below with a link to the full text:

  • 12 trials were represented in the analysis
  • Interventions ranged from 8-12 months
  • main characteristics of the resistance training protocols were: 30 - 60 minutes of progressive training of 5-10 muscle groups, 2-6 sets and 6-20 reps (mostly 8-12 reps)
  • main characteristics of the aerobic training were: cycling, walking and treadmill activitiy, 3 times/week, 15-60 minutes (mostly 40-60 minutes), mostly 60-85% heart rate reserve
  • aerobic exercise significantly decreased HbA1c vs resistance training (-0.46% vs -0.32%)
  • aerobic exercise significantly improved VO2 peak and maximal heart rate vs resistance training
  • Both exercise modes were statistically equal in effect on all other variable


Conclusion: Both resistance training and aerobic training have beneficial and comparable effects on glycemic control. Currently, the evidence suggests that patients and clinicians can utilize both or either type. 

Reference: Yang et al. Resistance Exercise versus Aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and Meta-analysis. Sports MEd (2014) 44:487 - 499