Harvard Health Letter

News briefs: Strengthen your muscles to reduce diabetes risk

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Here's a little incentive to start strengthening your muscles: a Harvard study published Jan. 14, 2014, in PLOS Medicine found that women who strengthen or condition their muscles more than 150 minutes per week have a 40% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who don't do muscle work. How does this happen? "Muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities may help to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by muscle," says Dr. JoAnn Manson, coauthor of the study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. In other words, the more muscle you have, the more glucose (sugar) it will use. Otherwise, too much glucose in your blood can lead to diabetes. And if you really want to cut your risk of diabetes, add aerobic exercise. When study subjects did at least 150 minutes per week of aerobics as well as at least 60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening, they were about 70% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes as inactive women. You can get the benefits of strength training by doing any activity that places resistance on your muscles, such as yoga, stretching, toning exercises, and working with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands. Strong muscles can also help improve your cholesterol levels, decrease body fat, strengthen your bones, maintain a healthy weight, reduce joint pain, and fight mild depression.