A meta-analysis of 9 studies found that water-based exercise is an equal alternative for type 2 diabetics.
For patients with type 2 diabetes, aquatic exercise is just as effective as other workouts at blood sugar improvement, according to a meta-analysis of existing studies.
Exercise, in general, helps lower blood sugar levels, as well as contributing to healthier blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, according to the study, only around 30% of type 2 diabetics are adherent to a more traditional exercise program of walking, running, or resistance training.
The study included 9 previously concluded trials examining blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients and aquatic exercises, involving 222 total participants. The exercises examined involved water walking/running and cycling, and water-based fitness classes.
2 of the studies directly compared land exercises to water, while the other 7 compared those who exercised in water to those who were sedentary, or compared individuals at the start of the trial to themselves after 8 or more weeks of water-based exercise.
The lead author, Normand G. Boulé, PhD, MA, BSc, professor of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta (pictured), wrote that after 8 weeks, water exercisers had lowered Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) by the same amount as land exercisers, and that after 8 to 12 weeks, improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides also occurred in some patients.
When compared to those who did not exercise — and to themselves 8 weeks prior – the HbA1c levels were comparatively lower (WMD = -0.96%, [-1.87, -0.05] compared to sedentary; WMD = -0.48%, [-0.66, -0.30] when compared to baseline).
Many of the studies examined were small and short-term, according to the authors, so more research will be needed to compare land and water exercise over longer periods of time.
The authors noted that while attempting to conduct studies for type 2 diabetics, many people could not participate due to joint pain and other barriers, making water-based exercise a logical second option.
Boulé did note that adherence to water exercise could be difficult, however, as some have limited access to pools for multiple reasons, including costs, availability, distance, and others.