Exercise is widely perceived to be beneficial for glycemic control and weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, clinical trials on the effects of exercise in patients with type 2 diabetes have had small sample sizes and conflicting results.
To systematically review and quantify the effect of exercise on glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA(1c)) and body mass in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Database searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Sport Discuss, Health Star, Dissertation Abstracts, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register for the period up to and including December 2000. Additional data sources included bibliographies of textbooks and articles identified by the database searches.
We selected studies that evaluated the effects of exercise interventions (duration >/=8 weeks) in adults with type 2 diabetes. Fourteen (11 randomized and 3 nonrandomized) controlled trials were included. Studies that included drug cointerventions were excluded.
Two reviewers independently extracted baseline and postintervention means and SDs for the intervention and control groups. The characteristics of the exercise interventions and the methodological quality of the trials were also extracted.
Twelve aerobic training studies (mean [SD], 3.4 [0.9] times/week for 18  weeks) and 2 resistance training studies (mean [SD], 10 [0.7] exercises, 2.5 [0.7] sets, 13 [0.7] repetitions, 2.5 [0.4] times/week for 15  weeks) were included in the analyses. The weighted mean postintervention HbA(1c) was lower in the exercise groups compared with the control groups (7.65% vs 8.31%; weighted mean difference, -0.66%; P<.001). The difference in postintervention body mass between exercise groups and control groups was not significant (83.02 kg vs 82.48 kg; weighted mean difference, 0.54; P =.76).
Exercise training reduces HbA(1c) by an amount that should decrease the risk of diabetic complications, but no significantly greater change in body mass was found when exercise groups were compared with control groups.