Diabetes Forecast

Weight Lifting and Diabetes

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What to Know

Your blood vessels allow blood to flow from your heart to the rest of your body and back again. When those vessels don’t function as well as they should, your risk of having a heart attack goes up. Canadian researchers examined whether certain types of exercise, including cardio and resistance training, could promote better blood vessel health. If so, that might protect against heart disease as well as nerve damage caused by poor circulation. Both are common complications of diabetes.

The Study

Participants included 35 people whose average age was 56. They were divided into three groups: people with type 2 diabetes who did no exercise, people without diabetes who met current physical activity guidelines, and people without diabetes who exercised more than seven hours per week. The participants each did two 20-minute sessions of intense interval training. In one session, they did cardio exercise on a stationary bike. In the other, they lifted weights using their leg muscles. For both sessions, participants completed one-minute bouts of intense exercise, followed by one-minute rest periods. With ultrasound and other measures, the researchers evaluated and compared how well each participant’s blood vessels functioned in the two hours following their workouts.

The Results

Interval weight lifting significantly improved the functioning of the endothelium—a thin layer of cells that lines the interior of the blood vessels and helps control blood circulation—in all participants. It was especially effective for the 12 participants with type 2 diabetes. Compared with weight lifting, cardio exercise offered a smaller and shorter-lasting benefit for those participants who had diabetes.


Short, intense sessions of weight lifting may help protect you from heart disease and nerve damage by improving the function of your blood vessels. However, the researchers don’t fully understand why that is. While the participants were matched by age, other factors, including weight, diet, and medication use, were not considered, and these may have affected the results. Further research is needed in order to learn whether weight lifting offers long-term benefits to your blood vessels and circulation.

Monique E. Francois, Cody Durrer, Kevin J. Pistawka, Frank A. Halperin, and Jonathan P. Little. “Resistance-based interval exercise acutely improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes”. American Journal of Physiology–Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 2016; 311: H1258–H1267 Published online September 16, 2016.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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