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  • Writer's pictureJonny Slick

Strength Training and Blood Sugar Management: Unleashing the Power of Muscles

When it comes to managing blood sugar levels, we often associate aerobic exercises like running or cycling with improved glucose control. However, there's another powerful tool in our arsenal that deserves recognition: strength training. Beyond building strong muscles and increasing physical performance, engaging in regular strength training has shown significant benefits in managing blood sugar levels, particularly for individuals with Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. In this blog, we will delve into the effects of strength training on blood sugar management, exploring how it can positively impact fasting blood glucose levels and A1-C numbers.

Older woman lifting weights with the help of a personal trainer

The Link Between Strength Training and Blood Sugar:


Several studies have investigated the impact of strength training on blood sugar management. One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that resistance exercise, such as weightlifting, resulted in increased glucose uptake by the muscles and improved insulin sensitivity. This is crucial because insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, and improved insulin sensitivity allows the body to utilize glucose more effectively.


Furthermore, a systematic review published in Diabetes Care analyzed multiple studies and found that resistance exercise training led to a reduction in fasting blood glucose levels, as well as improvements in glycemic control indicated by reduced A1-C levels. A1-C is a measurement of average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months and is commonly used to assess long-term blood sugar control. The review emphasized that strength training is a valuable addition to the standard treatment of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Anatomical drawing of the muscular system

Muscle Mass and Glucose Regulation:


One of the key mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of strength training on blood sugar management lies in its ability to increase muscle mass. As we engage in resistance exercises, our muscles adapt and grow stronger, leading to an increase in lean muscle mass. Muscle tissue is highly metabolically active and plays a crucial role in glucose metabolism.


Muscles act as a storage site for glucose in the form of glycogen. When we perform strength training, the demand for energy increases, prompting the muscles to utilize glucose for fuel. Consequently, this utilization of glucose by the muscles helps to lower blood sugar levels and improve overall glucose control. Moreover, increased muscle mass contributes to a higher resting metabolic rate, enhancing overall calorie expenditure and potentially aiding in weight management—a factor closely tied to blood sugar regulation.

Adults lifting weights in a small group with a personal trainer

Building a Strength Training Routine:


If you have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, incorporating strength training into your exercise routine can be highly beneficial. Here are a few key points to consider:

  • Consult with a healthcare professional: Before starting any exercise program, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that strength training is appropriate for your individual situation and health status.

  • Begin with proper guidance: Working with a qualified fitness professional or personal trainer experienced in diabetes management can help you develop a safe and effective strength training program tailored to your needs and goals.

  • Start gradually and progress gradually: Begin with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, focusing on proper form and technique. Gradually increase the weight and intensity over time as your strength and endurance improve.

  • Combine resistance exercises: Incorporate a variety of resistance exercises that target major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses, and rows. Aim for at least two to three sessions per week, with a day of rest between sessions to allow for muscle recovery.

Lifting weights to improve blood sugar

Strength training is an often-underestimated tool in the management of blood sugar levels for individuals with Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Beyond its obvious benefits for building muscle mass and strength, resistance exercise has a profound impact on blood sugar regulation. By increasing insulin sensitivity, improving glucose uptake, and enhancing overall glycemic control, strength training can significantly contribute to better management of blood sugar levels. Embracing a well-designed strength training routine, in conjunction with appropriate medical guidance and other lifestyle modifications, can empower individuals to take control of their blood sugar and improve their overall health and well-being.


References:


1. Kirwan, J. P., & Solomon, T. P. (2009). Effects of acute exercise on metabolism: implications for individualized exercise prescription. Sports Medicine, 39(9), 657-666.

2. Sigal, R. J., Kenny, G. P., Wasserman, D. H., Castaneda-Sceppa, C., & White, R. D. (2006). Physical activity/exercise and type 2 diabetes: a consensus statement from the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 29(6), 1433-1438.

3. Snowling, N. J., & Hopkins, W. G. (2006). Effects of different modes of exercise training on glucose control and risk factors for complications in type 2 diabetic patients: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 29(11), 2518-2527.

4. Wei, M., Gibbons, L. W., Kampert, J. B., Nichaman, M. Z., & Blair, S. N. (2000). Low cardiorespiratory fitness and physical inactivity as predictors of mortality in men with type 2 diabetes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 132(8), 605-611.


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