Combining exercise is best for health

06/16/2009 - Articles

Combining exercise is best for health

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Exercise can improve insulin resistance and functionality. A combination of both resistance and aerobic exercise achieves the best results, according to a study in abdominally obese adults.


Insulin resistance and functional limitation are two problems that tend to affect people as they get older. The first often leads to diabetes, the second to loss of independence. It's well known that exercise can improve both and a new study now shows that a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise works better than either on its own.



Regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging. But many people would like to know more about what type of exercise is going to be the most effective - aerobic, resistance, or do you need to do both? There have been many studies in this area but the current one looks at the impact of type of exercise upon two very significant problems of aging - insulin resistance and physical limitation. The first often precedes diabetes and is linked with factors such as obesity and increased waist circumference. The second is a major cause of loss of independence and quality of life - if people cannot do things for themselves, then they are forced to rely on others.


What was done

Researchers at Queen's University, Kingsland, Ontario, Canada, and Columbia University carried out this work with 136 abdominally obese older adults. For six months, they were assigned to one of four groups: aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, aerobic and resistance exercise, no exercise. The aerobic exercise was treadmill walking for 30 minutes five times a week. The resistance exercise was a set of nine exercises done for 20 minutes three times a week. The combination group did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week and 60 minutes of resistance training a week. Insulin resistance was measured with blood tests and functional limitation by a number of tests such as number of times the person could get up from their seat in a given period.


What was found

Insulin resistance improved in the aerobic and the combined group but not in the resistance exercise group. All of the groups improved their functional limitation measures but the combined group did better than the aerobic group. And cardiovascular fitness improved in the combined and aerobic group but not in the resistance group.


What this study means

Exercise has a real impact on health, decreasing insulin resistance and functional limitation. Best results come from both aerobic and resistance exercise, so try to work both components into your physical activity. The researchers say 90 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and 60 minutes resistance work a week is what you should aim for.



Effects of exercise modality on insulin resistance and functional limitation in older adults LE. Davidson, R. Hudson,  et al, Archives of Internal Medicine, January 26 2009, vol. 169, pp. 108--114

Created on: 01/30/2009
Reviewed on: 06/16/2009

No votes yet