Diabetes is one of the most widespread diseases in the world, with an estimated 415 million people suffering from one type of this condition. It is a condition on the rise, with more and more people dying from it (or complications caused by it) each year and with a global economic cost that is rising well above half a trillion dollars every year.
Before we cover why strength training can be a great ally in the battle against diabetes, we should probably say a thing or two about the disease itself as it will help explain why strength training is so beneficial.
There are three main types of diabetes mellitus that people suffer from.
Type 1 DM, often called juvenile diabetes; type 2 DM, the most common type; and gestational diabetes is the third major type, and it develops in pregnant women who previously never had problems with blood sugar levels.
No matter what type of diabetes is in question, the patient has high blood sugar levels over a long period of time, leading to increased thirst and hunger, as well as more frequent urination. Over time, diabetes can cause vision impairment and skin rashes. More serious complications can include heart disease, chronic kidney failure, stroke, and foot ulcers.
Prevention and Management
While there is no known prevention for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be effectively prevented or at least delayed by making smart lifestyle choices. This includes regular exercise, a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight. If you are a smoker, giving up on the habit will also reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to managing diabetes, it all comes down to keeping blood sugar levels as close to the normal levels as possible. Of course, it is also important to avoid low blood sugar levels. Besides regularly taking medications and/or insulin, management will also involve lifestyle habits. One of the most important of these habits is regular exercise.
The Importance of Exercise
For the most part, people who suffer from diabetes are recommended to engage in regular aerobic (cardio) training, i.e. training which involves running, cycling, swimming and walking and various iterations of this kind of training. Among other things, aerobic training helps the body burn excess glucose found in the body, as well as decrease its innate resistance to insulin. Its additional benefits also help diabetes patients manage their condition more effectively.
Underrated Strength Training
And while aerobic training is commonly recommended to diabetes patients, many of them are not familiar with all the great stuff strength training can do for them. Strength training involves mostly gym-specific workouts that involve weights and specialized gym equipment (including comfortable gym wear).
The most important thing strength training does is improve your muscle tone and build new muscle mass. Muscle is known to burn more calories than other types of tissue, meaning that you will reap the benefits of your strength training 24/7. In addition to this, building muscle mass will also help lower your insulin needs due to improving insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, during the actual strength training, your body will use glucose from your blood to power your muscles. Finally, this ability of toned muscles to store glucose more effectively than other tissues will help regulate blood sugar even when you are not working out.
A Word of Warning
It should be pointed out that you should never engage in any strength training before you consult your doctor. This is especially important for people suffering from type 1 diabetes, although people with type 2 should also always consult their doctor.
Most doctors and experts agree that combining the two types of exercise – aerobic and strength, will have the most positive effects on your blood sugar levels and diabetes in general.
The important thing is that you do not neglect strength training.