Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy can reduce their need for insulin treatment by participating in a resistance training program, investigators in Canada report. According to their study results, overweight women seem to benefit more than their lean counterparts from such an exercise program.

Researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton reported that resistance exercise may be preferable to aerobic exercise, which is also recognized as a means of treating gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy). Resistance training improves strength and posture, which could alleviate some of the discomfort of advanced pregnancy, and may be more easily performed than aerobic exercise.

In the study 32 women were randomly assigned to a standard diabetic diet alone or to a diabetic diet plus exercise. The participants were at approximately 29 weeks into their pregnancies. The exercise regimen involved eight resistance exercises in a circuit-type training set-up, three times per week. They found that the amount of insulin needed to control diabetes was significantly lower in the diet-plus-exercise group.

Among women who were overweight before becoming pregnant, only 3 of 10 in the exercise group required insulin therapy, versus 8 of 10 in the diet-alone group.

Despite this benefit, pregnancy outcomes -- gestational age at delivery, rate of caesarean deliveries and birth weight -- were similar in the two groups.

The authors suggest that the results could be improved further. They point out that those in the exercise group participated in an average of two sessions per week rather than the recommended three weekly sessions. Beginning an exercise program earlier in pregnancy and improved compliance with the exercise regimen may eliminate the need for insulin altogether.

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