HealthDay News — Physical activity lowers mortality among those with diabetes, and weight training with or without aerobic activity can lower the risk for developing the disease, two studies show.

Results from a large prospective trial reveal that adults with diabetes who are moderately active have significantly lower mortality compared with those who are completely inactive (hazard ratio=0.62; 95% CI: 0.49-0.78; P=0.001), Diewertje Sluik, MSc, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam, and colleagues report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In a separate prospective study published in the same journal, men who weight trained at least 150 minutes per week had a 34% lower risk for developing diabetes, according to Frank Hu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues.

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Current recommendations state that patients with diabetes should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, as previous research has shown this can lower glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

To better understand the role of exercising in mortality among diabetes patients, Sluik and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study involving 5,859 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), who had diabetes at study enrollment, and a meta-analysis of published prospective studies to examine the association between physical activity and diabetes. During a median follow up of 9.4 years, 755 patients in the prospective study died.

In addition to lower mortality among those who were moderately active, the researchers observed a correlation between physical activity and lower risk for cardiovascular-related mortality (HR=0.51; 95% CI: 0.32-0.81; P=0.004). Specifically, those who walked at least two hours per week had a significantly lower risk of heart disease death (HR=0.54; 95% CI: 0.36-0.82). In the meta-analysis the pooled HR from five studies for all-cause mortality was 0.60 for high versus low physical activity.

“These findings provide empirical evidence supporting the widely shared view that persons with diabetes should engage in regular physical activity,” Sluik and colleagues wrote.

In the second study, Hu and colleagues examined the role of weight training in type 2 diabetes prevention among a cohort of 32,002 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1990 to 2008. There were 2,278 new cases of diabetes during 508,332 person-years of follow-up.

In multivariate-adjusted models, there was a dose-response association between increasing time spent on weight training or aerobic exercise and lower risk of type 2 diabetes, with the lowest risk for those engaged in at least 150 minutes per week. Risk was independently 34% and 52% lower, respectively, for men who engaged in at least 150 minutes per week of weight training or aerobic exercise.

Those who engaged in both aerobic exercise and weight training for that amount of time had the greatest reduction in risk (HR=59%; 95% CI: 39%-73%).

These findings support the concept that weight training may be a valid alternative for patients who have difficulty adhering to aerobic exercise,Hu and colleagues noted.

However, they acknowledged the results may not be generalizable, as the study population was comprised mostly of white, working health care professionals.

Sluik D et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012; doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3130.

Grøntved A et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012; doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3138.