Exercising for just an hour a week lowers risk of diabetes


  • Increasing the amount or intensity of weight training did not lower risk further
  • Resistance exercise combined with aerobic exercise saw greatest benefit
  • Whether you do cardio or not, weight training is recommended, say experts
  • Two 30-minute sessions per week of resistance exercise has the best effect
  • 1 in 4 UK adults has diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity combined 
  • This was the first study to look at resistance exercise and metabolic syndrome



Just an hour or less of resistance exercise training per week lowers the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity by 29 per cent, research shows.

And doing more hours of weight training did not reduce the risk further, throwing the ‘more is better’ concept out the window.

Doing both resistance and aerobic exercises was found to provide the greatest benefit in preventing these conditions, the study shows.

And those who feel guilty for not working out hard enough will be glad to know more intensive weight training was not linked to any additional health benefits either.

Resistance exercise combined with aerobic exercise brings the greatest benefit.

It’s good news for the one in four adults in the UK affected by metabolic syndrome – the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

‘Few studies have reported on the health effects of resistance exercise, and this is the first such study concerning metabolic syndrome,’ said Esmée Bakker, the lead author of the study from Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

‘Our results indicate that a modest amount of resistance exercise, such as two 30-minute sessions per week, has the most beneficial effect.

‘These findings should be included in the standard medical recommendations for preventing metabolic syndrome and future cardiovascular disease.’

On their own, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can damage your blood vessels, but having all three together is particularly dangerous, NHS Choices warns.

They are all very common conditions that are all linked, which explains why metabolic syndrome is so prevalent.


Resistance exercise was already known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or to improve bone health, but nothing was previously known about its link with metabolic syndrome.

And so a team of international researchers carried out a study on this involving more than 7,000 participants from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) in the US.

At the start of the research, all participants were healthy without metabolic syndrome. The researchers looked at the onset of the condition.

During the study, 15 percent of the participants developed metabolic syndrome.

Those weight training for just an hour a week or less were found to have a 29 percent reduced risk.

However, participants did two or more sessions per week had a 17 per cent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

It also made little difference if people did resistance exercise only on weekends or spread throughout the week, the researchers said.

The analysis did account for influence of other healthy behaviours, such as smoking and regular endurance training.

The study’s recommendations 

Moderate amounts of aerobic exercise training yielded important health benefits, the researchers concluded.

And while cardio together with weight training produced the best results, resistance exercise – whether or not combined with aerobic exercise – should be included in your workouts to prevent metabolic syndrome.

As well as exercising regularly, you can prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome by losing weight, eating healthily, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol, says the NHS.

The findings were published on the Mayo Clinic Proceedings website.

The researchers did note a limitation of the study was its small sample size.



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