Background Moderately intensive aerobic exercise can improve glucose metabolism and pancreatic β cell function in diabetic patients. To date, there is no evidence to support the long-term effectiveness of home-based exercise interventions on these outcomes. Objective This study investigated the effectiveness of two moderately intense exercise programmes on glucose metabolism and pancreatic β cell function in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients. Methods A randomised controlled trial of 120 T2DM patients (with a mean age of 55.54 ± 9.09 years) was conducted. Patients were assigned by block randomisation to either an aerobic exercise group (AEG), an accumulated million steps group (AMSG), or a control group (CG); each consisting of 40 patients. Glucose metabolism and pancreatic β cell function of patients were measured at three time intervals for 1 year. Results There was no difference in baseline scores, and respective compliance rates for the AEG and AMSG were 94.4% and 99.2%. After generalised estimating equation analysis, the AMSG results for glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) were significantly lower than those of the CG. The insulinogenic index-acute insulin response (BIGTT-AIR) of both exercise groups was significantly higher than that of the CG. The AMSG group improved their overall HbA1c and BIGTT-AIR results compared with the AEG group after 3 months exercise programme (T1) and 12 months of implementation (T2). Conclusion This study demonstrates that regardless of the type of exercise intervention, it is potentially beneficially effective for glucose metabolism and pancreatic β cell function in T2DM patients. The AMSG had better glucose metabolism and pancreatic β cell function compared with those in the AEG. Nurses can easily integrate exercise interventions into T2DM patient care plans.
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