Eccentric exercise stomps on diabetes

Tuesday, 11 April, 2017

Eccentric exercise stomps on diabetes

Could the simple act of walking down stairs help prevent diabetes? Research from the Edith Cowan University (ECU) suggests something known as eccentric exercise could hold the key.

Thirty elderly women were recruited by researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences and put on an exercise program, with half walking upstairs and the others walking downstairs.

Lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka said that at the end of the 12-week program, the women who walked downstairs showed improvements on several physiological measures.

“They had significantly lower levels of resting glucose, insulin and haemoglobin 1AC, improved oral glucose tolerance test and decreased triglycerides and cholesterols, together with an increase of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in their blood,” he said.

“All of these changes will have lowered their risk of developing diabetes.”

What is eccentric exercise?

“While both groups recorded an improvement, it was significantly greater in the downstairs group,” Professor Nosaka said. He went on to explain that walking down stairs is what is called ‘eccentric exercise’.

“Despite how it sounds, eccentric exercise does not involve going for a run in a silly costume,” Professor Nosaka said.

“Eccentric exercise is where load is placed on the muscle while it is lengthening, rather than shortening. For example, walking down stairs is eccentric exercise because your front thigh muscles are lengthening when they are placed under load, as opposed to walking up stairs in which the muscles are shortening, performing mainly concentric contractions,” he explained.

Wait, there’s more…

The researchers also found that as well as protecting against metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the downstairs group’s physical function such as walking ability, balance, bone mineral density, resting heart rate and blood pressure all improved significantly more than the upstairs group.

“This is yet more evidence that not all exercise is created equal in terms of its health benefits,” Professor Nosaka said.

“There are lots of ways to incorporate eccentric exercise into your life to enjoy the health benefits.

“If you work in a tall building, try taking the lift up to work but then walk down the stairs when you go home. Or, if you are using weights, concentrate on the lowering the weights slowly, because the lowering action causes your muscles to perform eccentric exercise.

“Even sitting down in your chair slowly makes your leg muscles contract eccentrically, so by sitting down slowly you can get a bit of eccentric exercise.”

Image credit: ©

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