New research shows building muscle strength may be one way to lower risk for the disease. The study of more than 4,500 adults found moderate muscle mass reduced the risk for type 2 diabetes by 32 percent. The benefits were independent of cardiorespiratory fitness, and higher levels of muscle strength did not provide additional protection. The findings are published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and corresponding author of the study, says the results are encouraging because even small amounts of resistance exercise may be helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes by improving muscle strength. However, it is difficult to recommend an optimal level as there are no standardized measurements for muscle strength, he said.
“Naturally, people will want to know how often to lift weights or how much muscle mass they need, but it’s not that simple,” Lee said. “As researchers, we have several ways to measure muscle strength, such as grip strength or bench press. More work is needed to determine the proper dose of resistance exercise, which may vary for different health outcomes and populations.”
Study participants completed chest and leg presses to measure muscle strength. Those measurements were adjusted for age, gender and body weight as potential confounders, which is an example of why researchers say it is complicated to provide general recommendations.
The current study is one of the first to look at the risk of type 2 diabetes and muscle strength, separate from cardiorespiratory fitness. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 100 years old. All were required to complete initial and follow-up exams. Brellenthin says moderate strength reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes regardless of lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking, or health issues such as obesity and high blood pressure.