Diabetes Management,Diabetes Reversal,Fitness for Diabetes,Pre Diabetes Reversal

Diabetes and Strength Training: How You Can Get Started at Home

October 2021

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ve probably heard everyone tell you that exercise is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar levels in control. And when one says exercise, most people think of walking, running or some other form of cardiovascular exercise.

While we aren’t discrediting the benefits of cardio, there’s more to it. So let’s break it down for you.

Cardiovascular exercises: Also called cardio, this type of exercise works on your heart and lungs by increasing their ability to function better. A common example of it is walking or jogging. Cardio is especially great for people with diabetes, because it helps increase your blood circulation and manage your blood sugar levels (by burning extra glucose and reducing your body’s resistance to insulin.)

Strength training or resistance training: Also called weight training, this form of exercise is important for people with diabetes. Resistance training is a form of exercise that works by using an external resistance to weights and acts on the major muscle groups of the body like your back, buttocks, arms and chest (depending on the type of resistance training you’re doing) . Common examples of strength training that you might have come across are weight lifting, working out with resistance bands, heavy gardening and even walking up stairs. And no, these muscle-building exercises are not meant only for bodybuilders!

What you need to know:

Strength training is a MUST in your exercise regimen, because a combination of both these forms of exercises works wonders for people with diabetes.

Here are some benefits of these muscle-building exercises:

The benefits of strength training include prevention, modification and improvement of disease conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis and especially diabetes. Because it is an easy and non-invasive treatment modality for the management of diabetes.

  1. Helps maintain muscle mass: Strength training exercises are targeted towards your muscles. If muscle strength is not maintained properly, there is an actual loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). Diabetes has been found to accelerate this process, leading to poor muscle health the longer you have diabetes. Being physically inactive is a major risk factor for this as well. In today’s day and age, where a sedentary lifestyle is the norm, you need to take early preventive measures to stop this from happening.
  2. Improves stamina for day-to-day activities: Every activity that we do requires muscle contraction. Be it brushing your teeth, washing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, work-related activities, shopping etc, nothing is possible without proper muscle health. Which is why exercises like walking and jogging alone, may help build your cardiorespiratory endurance (the ability of our heart and lungs to carry out any activity for long periods), but done alone may not be beneficial. This has to be combined with training our muscles to do the same effectively.
  3. Improves blood sugar levels: When you exercise, your metabolism gets regulated and blood sugar is broken down and utilised by your muscles, in a process known as glucose uptake. When you perform strength training to build your muscles, you increase the glucose uptake by your muscles and help regulate your blood sugar levels. HbA1c values have also been known to improve with strength training. Short bouts of strength training performed before cardio exercise also reduce the risk of hypoglycemia (sudden drop in blood sugar levels below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) ), a phenomenon that some people with diabetes experience while exercising.
  4. Helps you manage your weight: Strength training helps change your fat to muscle ratio, i.e, increase your muscle mass and reduce your fat mass. Obesity and diabetes both are risk factors for dangerous health issues such as heart attack and paralysis. Therefore, regular exercise can prevent such incidents from happening and ensure a long and healthy life for you.
  5. Reduce your risk of suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis: Another factor that affects our quality of life as we get older are joint aches and pains. Diabetes compromises blood vessels, thereby reducing blood supply to your joints. In addition to that, if your muscles are weak, the load on your bones and joints goes on increasing, eventually, the health of your joints deteriorates and you may end up with arthritis. Weak bones are brittle (osteoporosis) and will break easily, thus increasing the risk of fractures. With strength training, these disasters can be averted.

But if you thought you’d have to go a gym to strength train, nothing could be farther from the truth — all you really need is the right guidance and some space at home.

Sounds like something you want to try? Well, here are some tips to get your strength training routine started at home:

Tip 1: You need some weight, anything will do: You can improvise with the weights available at home, such as water bottles, sandbags, rice bags, and a backpack filled with heavy books/rice/sand etc. Get a little creative and you can find so many items that can be used for weight training!

Tip 2: Use your body weight to your advantage: The best form of resistance comes from your own body weight. In fact, research states that exercises that utilise your body weight (no equipment needed!) and involve multiple joints and muscles simultaneously are preferred over single-joint exercises with weights. This is because:

  1. Such exercises target larger and major muscle groups simultaneously, leading to a better advantage.
  2. Bodyweight exercises are more functional, meaning they closely resemble the movements and positions we perform in our daily lives. Hence, if you practice them more, you’ll easily notice the results of this form of training in your day to day life.

So, rest assured, all you need is some free space, a yoga mat and some creative DIY home weights. But most importantly, BYOB (Bring Your Own Body!)

Tip 3: Try these exercises:

Bodyweight exercises that can be performed at home:

  1. Squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Triceps dips
  4. Push-ups
  5. Planks
  6. Bridges

Tip 4: The amount matters, so don’t go overboard:

So now we know that exercise is a part of treatment for diabetes. And just like any other medicine, it has its dosage too. ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) has issued guidelines for exercise dosage for adults. For the dosage of exercise,you should follow what is known as the FITT principle, which is as follows:

F: Frequency: How many times should I perform exercises?

An average adult should exercise for at least 150 minutes a week or 30-45 minutes, 4-5 days a week.

I: Intensity: How hard should I work out?

A moderate intensity is ideal (meaning 40-60% of maximal cardio capacity (VO2max). In other words, at a level of effort of 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is the level of effort of sitting, and 10 is maximal effort) or 50–70% of maximum heart rate.

T: Time: How long should I exercise in a day?

20-60 minutes of cardio exercise, and 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions of 8–10 exercises involving the major muscle groups.

T: Type: What kind of exercises should I perform?

Cardio exercise: A variety of modes of cardio exercise is recommended but any form (including brisk walking, swimming, cycling, Zumba dancing, outdoor sports etc) that uses large muscle groups and causes sustained increases in heart rate is ideal. Perform cardio exercise spread out at least 3 days during the week, with no more than two consecutive days in between.

Resistance exercise: Undertake resistance exercise at least twice weekly on nonconsecutive days, but more ideally 3 times a week, along with regular cardio exercise. Each session of resistance exercise should involve the major muscle groups (legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms).

Precautions you should take:

  1. Start slow: Start at a comfortable pace, lower weights and lesser repetitions. Remember, Rome was not built in a day!
  2. Form is important: The technique and posture of every exercise are more important than the need to brag about your number of reps, weight and your gains. Proper form minimises the risk of injury or muscle strains and sprains
  3. Do not hold your breath while exercising.
  4. Progress gradually: initially in terms of repetitions and then in terms of weight is usually preferred.
  5. Know your capacity: Your exercise heart rate should be within your target heart rate range, which is 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.
  6. Work through your full range of motion in the absence of any pain complaints.
  7. Wear comfortable clothing, ensure proper grip on weights
  8. Do not overexert yourself, keep a gap of one day between two resistance training sessions. Hence we recommend alternate days of cardio and resistance training exercises.
  9. Take rest, proper warm-ups and cool-down exercises and stay hydrated. This will ensure safety and minimise the risk of injuries, fatigue, muscle soreness and sudden hypoglycemia (drop in blood sugar level).

Who should not exercise?

Certain circumstances under which exercises are a big no-no are as follows:

  • Unstable angina
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Uncontrolled dysrhythmias
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Retinopathy

In the presence of certain conditions, you need to be evaluated by an expert before proceeding with exercises:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Myocardial ischemia
  • Poor left ventricular function
  • Autonomic neuropathies

So, if you’re thinking of starting strength training as a part of your plan to get your diabetes under control, then before you start it is important to get expert guidance. And that’s where Diabefly Pro can help. With this program not only do you get expert guidance on your diet and mental health, but also have an expert physiotherapist who will design an exercise program that’s ideal and safe for you. Your physiotherapist will also help you set a goal and track your progress. So, what are you waiting for? Enrol in Diabefly Pro get yourself evaluated and get a customized exercise program to start towards a healthy life! Want to know more? Check us out at https://www.fitterfly.com/diabefly or give us a call at 022 48971077 (EXT 1).

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Yamamoto Y, Nagai Y, Kawanabe S, Hishida Y, Hiraki K, Sone M, et al. Effects of resistance training using elastic bands on muscle strength with or without a leucine supplement for 48 weeks in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes. Endocr J. 2021 Mar;68(3):291–8.

Hovanec N, Sawant A, Overend TJ, Petrella RJ, Vandervoort AA. Resistance training and older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus: Strength of the evidence. J Aging Res. 2012;2012:284635.

Stewart KJ. Exercise training and the cardiovascular consequences of type 2 diabetes and hypertension: Plausible mechanisms for improving cardiovascular health. J Am Med Assoc. 2002;288(13):1622–31.

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Egger A, Niederseer D, Diem G, Finkenzeller T, Ledl-Kurkowski E, Forstner R, et al. Different types of resistance training in type 2 diabetes mellitus: Effects on glycaemic control, muscle mass and strength. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2013 Dec;20(6):1051–60.

Tajiri Y, Kato T, Nakayama H, Yamada K. Reduction of skeletal muscle, especially in Lower Limbs, in Japanese type 2 diabetic patients with Insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2010 Apr;8(2):137–42.

Jamshidpour B, Bahrpeyma F, Khatami MR. The effect of cardio and resistance exercise training on the health-related quality of life, physical function, and muscle strength among hemodialysis patients with Type 2 diabetes. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2020 Apr;24(2):98–103.

Hameed UA, Manzar D, Raza S, Shareef MY, Hussain ME. Resistance training leads to clinically meaningful improvements in control of glycemia and muscular strength in untrained middle-aged patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. N Am J Med Sci. 2012 Aug;4(8):336–43.

Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Yardley JE, Riddell MC, Dunstan DW, Dempsey PC, et al. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: A position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(11):2065–79.

Ibáñez J, Gorostiaga EM, Alonso AM, Forga L, Argüelles I, Larrión JL, et al. Lower muscle strength gains in older men with type 2 diabetes after resistance training. J Diabetes Complications. 2008;22(2):112–8.

McGinley SK, Armstrong MJ, Boulé NG, Sigal RJ. Effects of exercise training using resistance bands on glycaemic control and strength in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Acta Diabetol. 2014 Apr;52(2):221–30.

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