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Get Pumped! Strength training to manage type 2 diabetes

Project summary

Resistance, or strength training can help people with type 2 diabetes to improve their blood sugar levels and health. Dr Lewis Macgregor will examine if restricting blood-flow to muscles during resistance exercise can boost its positive effects on the body – making the training more effective when using lighter weights. This could help us to make this type of exercise a more feasible option for more people with type 2 and maximise its benefits on health. 

Background to research

Being physically active helps to manage type 2 diabetes. One of the best things you can do is resistance exercise, also known as strength or weight training. By increasing muscle mass, this type of exercise can boost how your body uses insulin and help to control blood sugar levels. To get the most out of this type of exercise, relatively heavy weights need to be used. This can be difficult or many people with type 2 diabetes, who may be living with complications such as nerve damage, or who aren’t used to heavy weight training. 

Research has shown that restricting blood-flow to exercising muscles by inflating a cuff around the limb you’re exercising, can stimulate muscle fatigue and boost the benefits of strength training. This means lighter weights can bring greater gains. 

Research aims

Dr Lewis Macgregor will investigate the benefits of resistance exercise when blood-flow is restricted for people living with type 2 diabetes.  

He’ll invite 38 people with type 2 diabetes to take part in a 10-week study. Over a 6-week period, participants will complete two 30-minute sessions of blood flow restriction resistance training per week. For two weeks before and after this exercise period, participants will be asked to go about their normal levels and types of physical activity.  

Dr Macgregor and team will continuously monitor participant’s activtiy and blood sugar levels over the whole study, as well as collecting information on their diet. Researchers will also measure participants weight, body measurements and how their bodies respond to insulin at the start, mid-point and end of the study.  

The researchers will track changes over the duration of the study, comparing insulin response and blood sugar control during the 6-week exercise intervention and during the normal behaviour periods. This will allow them to understand if blood-flow restriction resistance training holds potential to help people better manage their type 2 diabetes.  

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Physical activity is crucial to managing type 2 diabetes and helping people stay healthy. If successful, this research could also help to develop a new home-based resistance exercise programme for people with type 2 diabetes, which maximises the benefits to blood sugar levels and health, while using lighter weights. This could help to increase the uptake of resistance training among people living with type 2 diabetes, so more people can experience its health benefits.  

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