Type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. It is associated with reduced baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) and heart rate variability (HRV), which are indicators of increased risk for mortality and morbidity in various patient populations. This study was designed to assess the effects of exercise training on BRS, HRV, and hemodynamics in patients with type 2 diabetes. Subjects (50 men, mean age 53.3 ± 5.1 years) with type 2 diabetes were randomized into either a control group, in which they received conventional treatment only, or an exercise group, in which they received conventional treatment together with heart rate-controlled endurance training twice a week and supervised muscle strength training twice a week for 12 months.
Measurements taken at baseline and follow-up included VO2max, standard time and frequency domain measures of HRV during 24-h recording, and BRS by the phenylephrine method. Cardiac index, systemic vascular resistance index, stroke index, and pulse wave velocity were measured by whole-body impedance cardiography. Significant improvements in VO2max +2.3 ml · kg-1 · min-1; P < 0.005 vs. control group), muscle strength, and glycemic control (exercise group: HbA1c -0.9%; P < 0.001 vs. control group) were observed in the exercise group. BRS increased in the exercise group, from 6.8 to 8.6 ms/mmHg, and decreased in the control group, from 7.5 to 6.4 ms/mmHg (95% CI for the difference between 0.05 and 4.36 ms/mmHg; P < 0.05). No significant changes in the time or frequency domain measures of HRV or in systemic hemodynamics were observed. We concluded that exercise training improves BRS sensitivity in type 2 diabetes subjects in addition to increasing the exercise capacity and muscle strength and improving glucose control. These beneficial effects in reflectory autonomic regulation and glucose control caused by exercise may be associated with improved prognosis of type 2 diabetes patients.