Strength Training Exercise and Diabetes

DIABETES CARE|Nov.22, 2018

There are a variety of tools for managing diabetes. As you do, physical activity is an important consideration because, the more weight you carry, the more insulin you may need. Among your exercise options, strength training can build muscle and lower the risk of low blood sugar during exercise in people with type 1 diabetes.

Working out with weights also touts other health benefits: It strengthens bone, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, helps with weight loss and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, explains the American Diabetes Association.

Following ADA recommendations, adults with type 2 diabetes should ideally perform both aerobic and resistance exercise training for optimal glycemic and health outcomes. That includes strength training. Moreover, 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly clearly improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetes.

Before You Begin

Before starting any new fitness activity, you should check with your doctor to be sure it's safe for you. With their approval, you can do these exercises at home with your own body weight or small dumbbells. If you decide to include weights in your workouts, choose light ones to begin as you build your strength. Do two sets of 8–12 repetitions of these basic strength training exercises.

Wall Push-Ups

  • Stand facing a wall. Experiment with the distance to determine the right difficulty for you. For intensity, closer is less so, farther is more so.
  • Place your palms flat against the wall. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the wall, keeping your body straight in a strong plank position.
  • Slowly straighten your arms to return to the starting position.

Side Raises

  • Sit or stand with your hands at your sides and a weight in each hand.
  • Raise both arms to the side, elbows bent slightly, until they reach shoulder height in a "T" shape.
  • Lower arms back down.

Bicep Curls

  • Hold a weight in each hand, arms at your sides and palms facing in.
  • Bend one arm to bring the weight to your shoulder, palm facing you.
  • Return down and repeat on the other arm.

Triceps Extensions

  • With a weight in one hand, bring your arm above your head so your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, with the weight in your hand pointed down at the floor behind your back.
  • Use your other hand to hold your arm in place to protect your elbow through the movement.
  • Straighten your arm, raising the weight over your head. Return back down.
  • Repeat with the other arm.

Chair Raises

  • Sit near the front of a secure chair. If it's on casters, be sure they're locked.
  • Cross your arms over your chest and lean back.
  • Move your upper body forward to sit up straight, straighten your arms in front of you, and stand up.
  • Return to sitting.

Things to Consider

You should check your blood sugar regularly during exercise if you have type 1 diabetes. You may have to adjust your intake of carbohydrates or insulin before and after a workout.

These simple moves can help increase your overall strength and help you better manage your diabetes. But before you start, remember to talk to your doctor about exercise and diabetes. Ask if they have any special instructions or restrictions to recommend. Your doctor can guide you on the best weight-bearing exercises for you.