- Managing diabetes requires a well-rounded fitness plan that includes different types of exercise like aerobic workouts and strength training.
- Also known as resistance training, strength training includes activities that build muscle power, like pushups, running, and the use of resistance bands and free-weight dumbbells.
- For people with type 2 diabetes, strength training helps the body improve its blood sugar management and lose excess weight.
When you have type 2 diabetes, staying fit and active makes it easier to keep your blood glucose levels in the healthy range. It helps to have a well-rounded fitness treatment plan. While aerobic exercise is known to help improve the body’s insulin management, strength training can also be beneficial for people with diabetes.
Strength Training and Diabetes
Strength training does not necessarily mean “bodybuilding” or bulking up by lifting heavy weights. Rather, it refers to an exercise that makes muscles stronger by moving parts of the body against a resisting force. “That’s why it’s sometimes called resistance training,” says Karen Kemmis, PT, RN, CDE, certified diabetes educator at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.
Activities that qualify as strength training exercises include calisthenics, using hand-held weight or resistance bands, or plyometrics, which is a type of exercise that uses speed and force of different movements to build muscle power, like pushups, throwing, running, jumping, and kicking.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), your strength training program should work your whole body two to three times a week, in addition to at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.
“Strength training twice a week is good; three times a week is preferable. You should have at least one day of rest between sessions,” Kemmis suggests.
How strength training makes managing type 2 diabetes easier
1. Better insulin response
Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose enter the body’s cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for future use. With regular strength training, your body transports glucose from your blood to your muscles more effectively, resulting in the body needing less insulin.
“Because strength training sensitizes muscles to insulin, they require less insulin to bring your blood sugar down,” explains endocrinologist Dr. Tamara Hannon of Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.
2. Lower blood sugar levels
Strength training workouts help our muscles absorb more glucose. Meaning, our muscles continue to use glucose even after an exercise, causing a drop in your blood sugar levels for several hours, Dr. Hannon explains.
3. Fat loss
Apart from burning calories during your workouts, strength training also promotes fat loss by increasing levels of lean muscle mass, which requires more calories than fat just to maintain itself, per a 2013 published Biomed Research International study.
However, Hannon stresses that exercise doesn’t solely cause weight loss. “You also have to reduce calorie intake,” she adds.
4. Improved heart health
Heart disease is a common diabetes complication. However, regular physical activity like strength training exercises can help reduce various heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, per the American Heart Association. Living a sedentary lifestyle only worsens your risks of these conditions, thus, making exercise a helpful way to lower your risks of heart problems.
5. Stronger bones
People with type 2 diabetes are at a heightened risk of bone fracture, as well as other complications, such as numbness in the legs and feet, making them more prone to falls, says Hannon. This is mainly caused by glucose attaching to the protein in bones during high blood sugar, weakening its structure, according to the ADA.
Weight-bearing strength-training exercises however, builds strength in the bones of the legs, spine, and hips, improving balance and mobility which lowers your risk of bone breaks and falls, according to the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation.
Source: Everyday Health