Strength Training and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you’re probably aware of all the effects the disease can have on your body. From intense sugar cravings to more serious complications like poor cardiovascular health and an increased risk for certain types of cancer, diabetes can have a significant impact on nearly all areas of well-being.

Thankfully, though, there are several ways patients with diabetes can reduce symptoms and prevent complications, as well as enhance their overall quality of life. One great way to boost health and keep complications at bay is through regular strength-training workouts. If you have diabetes, and are looking to enhance health and prevent the harmful effects of this disease, keep reading to discover all the benefits strength training can offer.

The Benefits of Strength Training 

Like other forms of physical activity, strength-training exercises can prove advantageous for individuals with diabetes. For example, regular sessions have been shown to help in the following ways:

  • ~Weight loss. For many diabetics, body weight and BMI are primary concerns; in fact, especially in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, obesity often plays a major role in the development of the disease. Therefore, healthy weight loss is essential in regulating blood sugar and preventing complications. Through strength training, you can build lean muscle, boost metabolism and burn fat and calories more efficiently.
  • ~Cardiovascular benefits. Diabetes affects heart function in a number of ways. Most significantly, the disease restricts blood flow, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and more. And while, traditionally, aerobic exercise was thought to be best for heart health, new studies prove that strength training is just as, if not more, effective at promoting healthy blood flow and enhancing cardiovascular fitness.
  • ~Glucose tolerance. Strength-training workouts not only lead to weight loss and improved heart health, but they can also boost the body’s tolerance to glucose. This can promote the regulation of blood-sugar levels, thus preventing diabetes complications of all kinds.
  • ~Insulin sensitivity. In patients with diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas and helps to control blood glucose. With regular strength-training workouts, however, the body becomes less resistant to natural insulin, allowing the hormone to do its job of keeping blood sugar levels in check.

Getting Started

Check out the following tips for beginning or enhancing a strength-training regimen, each of which will help reduce the risks associated with diabetes as well as boost overall health and fitness.

  • ~Start now. The sooner you get started, the sooner you start reaping the benefits. If you’re new to weight lifting or resistance training, be sure to avoid overexertion. And while the ideal weight can vary, you should be able to lift and repeat at least 20 times without experiencing intense pain or exhaustion. 
  • ~Aim for one or two days a week, then work your way up to a steady routine. 
  • ~Monitor glucose levels. Keeping a close watch on blood sugar is essential. And while traditional monitoring systems will suffice, many people are switching to continuous monitoring systems. Continuous glucose monitors are an especially great option during workouts, as they can alert you to irregularities, thus preventing harmful side effects. 
  • ~Consider HIIT. When it comes to improving insulin sensitivity, promoting weight loss and enhancing heart health, HIIT, or high intensity interval training, may be best. Here’s how HIIT works: for the majority of your workout, train at a moderate, steady pace. Then, every few minutes or so, incorporate short blasts of faster, more intense training. 
  • ~Eat well. While strength training and aerobic exercise can reduce the risks of diabetes, they should always be used in conjunction with a healthy, diabetic-friendly diet. Avoid sugars, starches and processed foods, and stick to fresh produce, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, a strength-training regimen could be just the thing to help regulate blood sugar and enhance quality of life. Speak to your doctor and see if strength-training is right for you.

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