Strength Training for Type II Diabetes

Patients with Type 2 diabetes benefit greatly from exercise. Endurance activities like walking or cycling improve cardiovascular function, lower blood pressure and help control blood glucose levels. These results make aerobic endurance exercise a well accepted part of a diabetes management plan. Now, research suggests that strength training offers those with Type 2 diabetes additional desirable results.

We know strength training increases muscle strength and makes everyday activities like carrying groceries easier. It also counteracts age related muscle decline and protects against muscle loss in individuals on a weight loss plan. There are also positive effects specifically related to Type 2 diabetes.

Better Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body does not produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly. This causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. According to the American Diabetes Association, high blood glucose levels  starves cells of energy and may hurt a person’s eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart. Type 2 diabetes patients may be prescribed medications or insulin to keep glucose in check.

A  growing number of studies suggest that regular strength training improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and modestly reduces HbA1c (a 2-3 month measure of average blood sugar). These benefits may be related to a simple increase in lean muscle, or to cellular mechanisms enhanced by strength training exercise. Whatever the reason, these effects are slightly different from those derived from aerobic endurance exercise. Strength training enhances muscle function in ways that endurance exercise does not, making it a complimentary addition to a diabetes management exercise program.

Get Started

Always begin with a conversation with your doctor. Your individual health concerns are important to consider before embarking on a new exercise program. If you are inexperienced with strength training (or exercise in general), seek the advice of a qualified fitness professional.

There are many ways to perform strength training, but they all involve challenging muscles to generate force against resistance. The resistance could be one’s own body weight, elastic bands or tubing, or dumbbells and barbells. A good personal trainer can advise you about what will work best for you.

Once you have your strength training plan in place, be faithful to it. Even if you start with a brief program with just a handful of exercises, sticking to it over the long term will pay off in accrued benefits. Use it as part of your overall diabetes management plan and odds are you’ll experience improvement in your glycemic control and overall health.

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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