Manage diabetes with strength training
Posted on 30 November 2015
The second-best way to manage diabetes is by managing your diet. The best way is to manage your diet and start a strength-training programme.
‘Strength training helps to speed up your metabolism, which helps you burn fat. This stabilises your insulin, which is exactly what you want if you’re diabetic,’ says sports physician Dr Herman Kotzé from Mediclinic Stellenbosch and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
Strength training uses resistance (usually weights, or your own body weight) to build muscular strength and anaerobic endurance – and while doing a lot of it will eventually lead to you looking like a bodybuilder, just enough of it will help control your body’s blood sugar levels. Strength training has been found to help the body respond better to insulin and to improve the way the body uses its blood sugar. It can also help you lose weight while lowering your risk of heart disease, because the more muscle you have the more kilojoules you’ll burn – even when your body is at rest.
‘First of all,’ Dr Kotzé explains, ‘strength training helps to increase your muscle mass – and with that, it helps to increase your metabolic rate. That helps you to burn more fat, and in the process helps to stabilise your insulin levels.’ For someone with diabetes – whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 – that sounds like the perfect recipe.
Strength training comes in various forms, so speak to your doctor – and to one of the trainers at your local gym – to determine the programme that’s best for you. You could try weight machines or free weights at the gym; resistance bands; strength training classes; or any regular, controlled lifting exercises.
An increasingly popular option is calisthenics, were you do exercises that use your own body weight to work your muscles. These start with the basics such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges and planks, and get more interesting and complicated from there.
If you haven’t done strength training before, remember to start slowly and resist pushing yourself too hard. It’s all about steady progression and completing your reps. If you push yourself too hard too soon, and try too early to ‘repeat till failure’, you could injure yourself – and that won’t help you at all.
Remember too that strength training affects your blood sugar levels – so check your levels before and after your workout to monitor the effect it’s having on your body. Speak to your doctor if your levels dip too low, and ask about changing your medication to compensate for your increased physical activity.