Research: Resistance training reduces insulin resistance

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Weight lifting or resistance training can help with diabetes type 2, insulin resistance, and obesity.

Resistance band exercise.
Resistance band exercise.

Medical professionals, physiotherapists, trainers, and researchers have long suspected that resistance or weight training would reduce insulin sensitivity and, thus, obesity if properly implemented and continued. In fact, prior research was quite encouraging. Aerobic exercise clearly improves insulin resistance in people with diabetes (Type 2) and the obese. We have long suspected that the weight loss from resistance training was due to improved muscle mass and insulin resistance reduction, but limited research backed this mechanism.

The good news is that a study that looked at physical exercise as a means to manage diabetes​[1]​. The role of resistance training is less well studied and data from local settings are very limited. The new study from 2019 aimed to study the effect of resistance training on glycemic control, insulin resistance, and body fat. The study was a randomized controlled study was conducted in a diabetes clinic and involved 60 participants with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The reason why they did the study on type 2 diabetics is that this type of diabetes is commonly associated with insulin resistance which is that dreaded cause of central obesity. Don’t forget that that beer gut type of weight gain is directly tied to heart disease and diabetes type 2. It just makes sense that if you increase muscle mass and reduce insulin resistance that you would also reduce belly fat and the risk of both diabetes and heart disease.

In the study, thirty of the subjects were randomly allocated to resistant training with Thera bands (rubber bands used for exercise and physical therapy). Routine medical and dietary treatments of diabetes type 2 were continued in both groups. The measures of success were glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), fasting blood glucose (FBG), body mass index (BMI), and body fat percentage (BFP). These measures were obtained at baseline and after 4 months.  The researchers found that resistant training group achieved significant reductions in HbA1c, FBG, BMI, and BFP.

The bottom line: Resistance training in this study, was found to improve all four markers of insulin resistance and diabetic control. The problem is the study was too small and the small population resulted in the changes not being significantly different than the control group.  A larger study should be done, but this study is one more study to show some improvement of the makers of insulin resistance with resistance training. I would recommend you discuss weight lifting or resistance training to your exercise regime with a medical professional.


  1. [1]
    S. A. M. F. Amnas, W. M. Wijetunga, U. A. Dissanayake, and P. Katulanda, “Home-Based Resistance Training Improves Glycemic Control and Body Fat Content in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Experience from a Tertiary Care Hospital in Sri Lanka,” Clinical Research in Diabetes and Endocrinology, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018 [Online]. Available:
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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