Here’s another reason to get your butt and matt to yoga class. It’s a well-known fact that aerobic activity, like jogging and swimming, can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes (T2D), but what about conditioning and stretching exercises like yoga? A new study published January 15 suggests that muscle-strengthening exercises do help lower the risk of T2D.
This study stretched over eight years, and the results were published in PLOS Medicine. Researchers used data from the Nurses Health Studies from the Harvard School of Health, and it included 99,316 middle-aged and older women (ages 53–81). Participants were free of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study.
The women reported their weekly exercises routines twice, in 2000 and 2005, and scientists found that participants who performed at least 60 minutes of yoga and resistance training, like lifting weights, and 150 minutes of aerobic exercise had a 33 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than inactive women. Performing more than two and a half hours of these types of physical activities showed an even lower risk of 40 percent. What’s important is that these were measured independently; that is, yoga and resistance training alone — without aerobic exercise — helps decrease the risk of T2D. Both activities significantly decrease the risk.
Existing studies show that muscle-strengthening activity improves glycemic control in people who already have diabetes. Aerobic activity plus muscle-strengthening exercises may help prevent loss of muscle mass as women get older, thus affecting how glucose is used by those muscles.
The World Health Organization recommends that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity and two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises per week.
By the end of the eight years, of the more than 99,000 women, about 3,500 developed diabetes. It should be noted that women with the highest levels of fitness likely made the healthiest food choices and had lower weights overall; they also probably had a lesser risk of family history of diabetes. Most of the women were of European descent and were all registered nurses.