Resistance Versus Aerobic Exercise

Acute effects on glycemia in type 1 diabetes

  1. Ronald J. Sigal, MD, MPH6,8,9
  1. 1Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
  3. 3University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  7. 7Champlain Diabetes Regional Coordination Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  8. 8Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  9. 9Departments of Medicine, Cardiac Sciences, and Community Health Sciences, Faculties of Medicine and Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Corresponding author: Ronald J. Sigal, rsigal{at}


OBJECTIVE In type 1 diabetes, small studies have found that resistance exercise (weight lifting) reduces HbA1c. In the current study, we examined the acute impacts of resistance exercise on glycemia during exercise and in the subsequent 24 h compared with aerobic exercise and no exercise.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Twelve physically active individuals with type 1 diabetes (HbA1c 7.1 ± 1.0%) performed 45 min of resistance exercise (three sets of seven exercises at eight repetitions maximum), 45 min of aerobic exercise (running at 60% of Vo2max), or no exercise on separate days. Plasma glucose was measured during and for 60 min after exercise. Interstitial glucose was measured by continuous glucose monitoring 24 h before, during, and 24 h after exercise.

RESULTS Treatment-by-time interactions (P < 0.001) were found for changes in plasma glucose during and after exercise. Plasma glucose decreased from 8.4 ± 2.7 to 6.8 ± 2.3 mmol/L (P = 0.008) during resistance exercise and from 9.2 ± 3.4 to 5.8 ± 2.0 mmol/L (P = 0.001) during aerobic exercise. No significant changes were seen during the no-exercise control session. During recovery, glucose levels did not change significantly after resistance exercise but increased by 2.2 ± 0.6 mmol/L (P = 0.023) after aerobic exercise. Mean interstitial glucose from 4.5 to 6.0 h postexercise was significantly lower after resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise.

CONCLUSIONS Resistance exercise causes less initial decline in blood glucose during the activity but is associated with more prolonged reductions in postexercise glycemia than aerobic exercise. This might account for HbA1c reductions found in studies of resistance exercise but not aerobic exercise in type 1 diabetes.

  • Received May 17, 2012.
  • Accepted August 27, 2012.

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