Graded resistance exercise and type 2 diabetes in older adults (the GREAT2DO study): methods and baseline cohort characteristics of a randomized controlled trial

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Simpson, KA, Mavros, Y, Kay, S, Meiklejohn, J, de Vos, N, Wang, Y, Guo, Q, Zhao, R, Climstein, M, Baune, BT, Blair, S, O'Sullivan, AJ, Simar, D, Singh, N & Fiatarone Singh, MA 2015, 'Graded resistance exercise and type 2 diabetes in older adults (the GREAT2DO study): methods and baseline cohort characteristics of a randomized controlled trial', Trials, vol. 16, article 512.

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Background: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is projected to affect 439 million people by 2030. Medical management focuses on controlling blood glucose levels pharmacologically in a disease that is closely related to lifestyle factors such as diet and inactivity. Physical activity guidelines include aerobic exercise at intensities or volumes potentially unreachable for older adults limited by many co-morbidities. We aim to show for the first time the efficacy of a novel exercise modality, power training (high-velocity, high-intensity progressive resistance training or PRT), in older adults with T2D as a means for improving glycemic control and targeting many associated metabolic and physiological outcomes.

Eligibility criteria included community-dwelling men and women previously diagnosed with T2D who met the current definition of metabolic syndrome according to the International Diabetes Federation. Participants were randomized to a fully supervised power training intervention or sham exercise control group for 12 months. Intervention group participants performed whole body machine-based power training at 80%1RM, 3 days per week. The control group undertook the same volume of non-progressive, low-intensity training. Participants were assessed at baseline, 6 months and 12 months and followed for a further 5 years, during which time participants were advised to exercise at moderate-high intensity. Glycemic control (HbA1c) and insulin resistance as measured by the homeostatic model assessment 2 (HOMA2-IR) were the primary outcomes of the trial. Outcome assessors were blinded to group assignment and participants were blinded to the investigators’ hypothesis regarding the most effective intervention.

Results: We recruited 103 participants (48.5 % women, 71.6 ± 5.6 years). Participants had 5.1 ± 1.8 chronic diseases, had been diagnosed with T2D for 8 ± 6 years and had a body mass index (BMI) of 31.6 ± 4.0 kg/m2. Fasting glucose and insulin were 7.3 ± 2.4 mmol/L and 10.6 ± 6.3 mU/L, respectively. HbA1c was 54 ± 12 mmol/mol. Eighty-six participants completed the 12-month assessment and follow-up is ongoing. This cohort had a lower-than-expected dropout (n = 14, 14 %) over the 12-month intervention period.

Conclusions: Power training may be a feasible adjunctive therapy for improving glycemic control for the growing epidemic of T2D in older adults.

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