Possibly because there are more and more people turning up with diabetes, but also because science keeps advancing, there has been more research in the exercise field about how your body deals with blood sugar, and how we can use exercise to keep us healthy.
The statistics on how many of us have type 2 diabetes are staggering. According to the CDC in 2017, some 30.3 million people in the USA have diabetes. In addition, there are a bunch of us walking around with pre-diabetes, and many are not even aware of it. This is another 84 million people!
What they have discovered is totally relevant to anyone. Pre-diabetic, diabetic, or apparently healthy.
Strength Training and Diabetes
So, just to distill what they have found, and to give you the take-aways for all of us, I’ll just make a list.
- Strength training rocks. It builds our muscles. We need our muscles because they use glucose (a.k.a., sugar) in a more direct way than happens with aerobic activities (walking, jogging, etc.). It’s also a great way to help us slow down the muscle loss that we get as we age. Notice that more older folks are diabetic than younger ones.
- Strength training is a great option for many people who may be obese, have arthritis (see my blog, “Arthritis and Strength Training: A Good Match” for more on this), have physical disabilities, complications from diabetes, or find walking difficult. You can still do some strength training at the gym or at home, with a little knowledge.
- Longer studies got better results. Shorter term studies, like 2-4 months, did not get good results changing blood sugar utilization unless the strength training was fairly high intensity. BUT, if the study lasted a year or so, insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization improved a lot with just moderate intensity training.
- This leads me to a huge take away, so I am going to give it a number all it’s own. Ready? If you are consistent in the long run (otherwise known as a life-style change for some), you can be moderate and still get great results for your health.
- Here is another one, so it gets it’s own number as well. In all the studies that looked at this, they noticed that the people in the control group (the ones who did nothing) actually GOT WORSE, even if the time frame was only 3 or 4 months. Diabetic or not, doing nothing does not mean you are staying the same.
- Lastly, when it comes to strength training, you can fast-track results by using as many muscles at once as you can. There are a bunch of reasons why this can work well for many people.
*You can get more done in less time.
*You will be moving many parts of your body at once, which means you will also be working on your coordination.
*You can end up moving better and doing more during the rest of your day.
Some examples: Squat and then press weights straight over head as you come up. Lunge forward as you do a bicep curl. Side crunch with a leg lift.
So there you have it. You really need both aerobic activity and strength training to stay healthy. But in a pinch, grab a bit of strength training, use as many muscles as you can, and it may help you make a switch to a lifestyle change if you haven’t done that already.
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