Exercise benefits people with type 2 diabetes even if they don't make any other lifestyle or diet changes, a new study says.
Dutch researchers conducted MRI exams of 12 patients with diabetes before and after they did six months of moderate-intensity exercise. Each week, the participants, who were an average age of 46, exercised between three and a half and six hours a week during two endurance and two resistance training sessions.
The six-month exercise program ended with a 12-day trekking expedition, according to the study published online in the journal Radiology.
There were no changes in the participants' heart function at the end of the exercise program. But they did have significant decreases in the amount of fat in the abdomen, liver and around the heart, all of which have been shown to be associated with increased risk of heart disease.
"In the present study we observed that the second layer of fat around the heart -- the pericardial fat -- behaved similarly in response to exercise training as intra-abdominal, or visceral fat. The fat content in the liver also decreased substantially after exercise," study senior author Dr Hildo Lamb, of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.
He said these exercise-related fat reductions in the liver are particularly important to people with type 2 diabetes, many of whom are overweight or obese.
"The liver plays a central role in regulating total body fat distribution," Lamb said. "Therefore, reduction of liver fat content and visceral fat volume by physical exercise are very important to reverse the adverse effects of lipid accumulation elsewhere, such as the heart and arterial vessel wall."
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about diabetes and exercise.