Effect of resistance training on HbA1c in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus and the moderating effect of changes in muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2022 Mar;10(2):e002595. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2021-002595.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) accounts for approximately 90% of diabetes cases globally. Regular physical activity is regarded as one of the key components in T2DM management. Aerobic exercise was traditionally recommended; however, there is a growing body of research examining the independent effect of resistance training (RT) on glycemic control. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to conduct an update on the effects of RT on glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in adults with T2DM and examine the moderating effects of training effect (ie, muscular strength improvements), risk of bias and intervention duration. Peer-reviewed articles published in English were searched across MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus and SPORTDiscus from database inception until January 19, 2021. Each online database was systematically searched for randomized controlled trials reporting on the effects of RT on HbA1c in individuals with T2DM. Twenty studies (n=1172) were included in the meta-analysis. RT significantly reduced HbA1c compared with controls (weighted mean difference=-0.39, 95% CI -0.60 to -0.18, p<0.001, I2=69.20). Training effect significantly (p<0.05) moderated the results, with larger improvements in muscular strength leading to greater reductions in HbA1c (β=-0.99, CI -1.97 to -0.01). Intervention duration and risk of bias did not significantly moderate the effects. As a secondary analysis, this study found no significant differences in HbA1c when comparing RT and aerobic training (p=0.42). This study demonstrates that RT is an effective strategy to decrease HbA1c in individuals with T2DM. Importantly, RT interventions that had a larger training effect appeared more effective in reducing HbA1c, compared with interventions producing medium and small effects.PROSPERO registration number CRD42020134046.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus, type 2; glycated hemoglobin A; meta-analysis; physical fitness.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Exercise
  • Glycated Hemoglobin
  • Humans
  • Resistance Training*


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A