Strength Training: Your Secret Weapon for Diabetes Management
Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders to have big shiny muscles to flex. Doing simple strengthening exercises can bring big health benefits to nearly everyone. Strength exercise help with weight management, reduce heart disease risk, lower risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, and relieve stress.
For people with diabetes, strength training has the additional benefit of increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can lower blood sugar. And, did you know the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn – even when you are not being active?
Doing some strengthening exercises at least 2 times per week is what’s recommended for people with diabetes in addition to aerobic activity. Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
No Gym Required: Options for Strengthening Exercises at Home
You can do many strengthening activities with no equipment or with household items or inexpensive weights. Here are suggestions:
- Weight lifting. Lifting light hand weights, cans of food, or water bottles can help you build muscle.
- Resistance bands and cords. These low-cost items can be used similar to weights and are convenient for when you are traveling.
- Exercises that use your own body weight to work your muscles. Examples include push-ups, sit ups, lunges, wall-sits, and planks.
- Online classes or DVDs. Video classes on yoga, Pilates, light weightlifting, or Tai Chi are all good choices.
- Gardening and housework. Getting outdoors for some gardening or heavy indoor housework can also count toward strength conditioning.
Tips for Safety and Best Results
For any strength or resistance training you do:
- Choose activities that work all the major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
- You can work certain muscle groups one day and the remaining muscle groups another day.
- For weightlifting, resistance training, or exercises that use your body weight, start with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise and build from there, with the goal of 2 to 3 sets. Be sure to allow at least 1 to 2 minute rest between sets.
- Don’t forget to breathe! As a general rule, exhale when lifting a weight and inhale when lowering the weight. Don’t hold your breath when doing strength exercises.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling. If you are feeling light-headed or dizzy or unable to progress, stop what you are doing and take a break.
- Check your blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise as directed by your physician.
- Consult your healthcare provider with any serious health concerns.
Always consult with your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before changing your daily activity or beginning any exercise program.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.
Diabetes and exercise, Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health:
“What We Recommend, Aerobic Exercise,” American Diabetes Association:
Cheng, Y et al. “Muscle-strengthening activity and its association with insulin sensitivity”. Diabetes Care September 2007. (30)0; p2264-2270:
A Strength Training Program for Your Home, American College of Sports Medicine:
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
How Much Physical Activity Do You Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: