Building Muscles Helps Control Blood Glucose

How to get started with easy strength training moves at home…

You’re probably aware of the health benefits of aerobic exercise—the kind of movement that gets the heart and lungs working. But you may not realize just how important strength training is, too.

Strength training, also known as resistance training, builds muscle and is part of a balanced fitness routine. To build muscle mass, you must move a part of the body against a force, which could be a weight or a stretchy elastic band. Your own body weight can provide that force—such as when you do a push-up, using your arms to lift and lower your torso. Strength training can be modified for a variety of abilities, and can be adjusted to avoid injuries. An exercise physiologist can help you customize a plan.

Answers to common misperceptions about strength training may help provide that extra push to get you started:

Myth: To build muscles, you need to lift weights at the gym.

Fact: You can do strength-training exercises with weights, exercise bands, even soup cans—at the gym or in your home.

Myth: For best results, you should feel sore after a workout.

Fact: A well-designed strength-training program can help you avoid post-workout muscle aches.

Myth: Strength training is boring.

Fact: Strength training adds variety to your workout program so you don’t get bored. Your muscles will thank you, too—they will like the variety of being asked to move and stretch in different ways.

The benefits of strength training are numerous, for people with diabetes and for those without in all age groups. Generally speaking, resistance-type exercises increase muscle mass. Muscle is an active tissue, which burns calories and thus helps increase your metabolism. The key to a healthy weight is to increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is at rest. This means you burn fat while resting. That’s a good deal.

More muscle mass also helps prevent age-related declines, such as weakness and muscle atrophy (muscle that literally wastes away). Walking up stairs, carrying heavy objects, and getting up off the floor will all be easier when you increase your muscle mass.

Resistance exercise also works to lower blood glucose levels and makes you more sensitive to insulin. This means you transport glucose from your bloodstream to your muscles in a more efficient manner and that you need less insulin to do so. In fact, moving your muscles acts like a pump, pushing glucose into muscle where it can be used as fuel instead of circulating in high levels in your blood. Even better, strength training is free; there’s no co-pay involved.

The American Diabetes Association supports the guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, recommending resistance training at least twice a week for adults with diabetes. A well-designed session includes at least five exercises that work your major muscle groups, each move performed for 10 to 15 repetitions, until you’re almost fatigued. There may be further health benefits if you increase the intensity or do additional sets (you can do that by repeating the exercise for another 10 to 15 repetitions after a short break or recovery period).

Before you start, speak to your doctor if you have any diabetes-related complications or other health concerns.



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