Strength Training in Diabetes – Not such a Dumbbell after all!

Body Building & Exercise

For a person with diabetes, building more muscle mass is an essential aspect of better diabetes control. It has been proved that increasing muscle mass by 10% leads to a reduction of insulin resistance by 11%. For people who are at the risk of diabetes, it reduces the risk of prediabetes.

Why this is important

Your skeletal muscle index is the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight. High blood sugar levels in people with diabetes leads to faster muscle loss than in non-diabetics. As there is loss of muscle, controlling diabetes also becomes difficult.
Blood transports glucose to be stored in the muscles. When there is muscle loss, blood glucose levels tend to increase. So, it is important to retain (if possible, increase) muscle mass.
Strength and resistance training improves muscle mass, bone health, and uses more glucose in the blood. It improves the ability of your muscles to store glucose and is known to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.

How to plan strength training in diabetes?

Most people adopt aerobic exercises as part of their exercise plan. While aerobic exercises improve heart health, improving muscle mass improves insulin sensitivity. This means better diabetes control. So, an exercise plan with a combination of aerobic and strength training is the best to control diabetes.
If you have never lifted weights before, here are 9 tips that would help you pump iron. But first, a word of caution:

Never do strength training if your blood sugar levels are over 300 mg/dL in both types of diabetes. Never do strength training if you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugar levels are over 250 mg/dL. Talk to your doctor if you have cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure.

1. Consult your doctor before beginning strength training –
This is because strength training can temporarily increase your blood sugar levels. However, on long term it reduces your blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity.
2. Talk to your doctor about your risk of low blood sugar levels –
This is important as the risk of low and high blood sugar levels vary from person to person.
3. Start slow and gradually increase –
Start with smaller weights and fewer repetitions. Take your exercise background and your physical condition into consideration and plan repetitions.
4. Start with a warm up of 5 minutes –
Deep breathing and walking are good choices.
5. Stick to one particular timing for strength training –
Depending upon your convenience, choose morning or evening for your routine.
6. Wear comfortable shoes –
Protecting your feet is important in diabetes.
7. Avoid overuse injuries –
Do not continue with high intensity exercises if you feel tired, painful, or stressed out. This may lead to muscle injury. Weightlifting needs to be mild and continuous. This provides better results.
8. Keep hydrating –
Dehydration increases blood sugar levels.
9. Consider an exercise partner –
There will be someone to help you if you have an emergency. Also, it’s fun working out together.