Aims/hypothesis: Low cardiorespiratory fitness is a powerful and independent predictor of mortality in people with diabetes. Several studies have examined the effects of exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness in Type 2 diabetic individuals. However, these studies had relatively small sample sizes and highly variable results. Therefore the aim of this study was to systematically review and quantify the effects of exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness in Type 2 diabetic individuals.
Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and four other databases were searched up to March 2002 for randomized, controlled trials evaluating effects of structured aerobic exercise interventions of 8 weeks or more on cardiorespiratory fitness in adults with Type 2 diabetes. Cardiorespiratory fitness was defined as maximal oxygen uptake (VO(2max)) during a maximal exercise test.
Results: Seven studies, presenting data for nine randomized trials comparing exercise and control groups (overall n=266), met the inclusion criteria. Mean exercise characteristics were as follows: 3.4 sessions per week, 49 min per session for 20 weeks. Exercise intensity ranged from 50% to 75% of VO(2max). There was an 11.8% increase in VO(2max) in the exercise group and a 1.0% decrease in the control group (post intervention standardized mean difference =0.53, p<0.003). Studies with higher exercise intensities tended to produce larger improvements in VO(2max). Exercise intensity predicted post-intervention weighted mean difference in HbA(1c) (r=-0.91, p=0.002) to a larger extent than did exercise volume (r=-0.46, p=0.26).
Conclusions/interpretation: Regular exercise has a statistically and clinically significant effect on VO(2max) in Type 2 diabetic individuals. Higher intensity exercise could have additional benefits on cardiorespiratory fitness and HbA(1c).