Progressive resistance exercise improves glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review

Aust J Physiother. 2009;55(4):237-46. doi: 10.1016/s0004-9514(09)70003-0.


Question: Is progressive resistance exercise a safe and effective form of exercise to improve glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes?

Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.

Participants: People with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Intervention: Progressive resistance exercise.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome was glycaemic control measured as percentage glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c). Secondary outcomes were body composition (lean body and fat free mass in kg), and muscle strength (% change in 1RM, dynamometry, change in maximum weight lifted).

Results: The search yielded nine relevant trials that evaluated 372 people with type 2 diabetes. Compared to not exercising, progressive resistance exercise led to small and statistically significant absolute reductions in HbA1c of 0.3% (SMD -0.25, 95% CI -0.47 to -0.03). When compared to aerobic exercise there were no significant differences in HbA1c. Progressive resistance exercise resulted in large improvements in strength when compared to aerobic (SMD 1.44, 95% CI 0.83 to 2.05) or no exercise (SMD 0.95, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.31). There were no significant changes in body composition.

Conclusions: Progressive resistance exercise increases strength and leads to small reductions in glycosylated haemoglobin that are likely to be clinically significant for people with type 2 diabetes. Progressive resistance exercise is a feasible option in the management of glycaemia for this population.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Resistance Training / methods*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A