Diabetes and Strength Training – It’s Not Just For Muscle Heads!

weight lifting seniors“We Are Here To Pump… You Up!”  This was the battle cry of Hans and Franz during their comedy routine on Saturday Night Live years ago. Well, as it turned out, they were right on the money when it comes to strength training and diabetes health.

Strength training, also known as weight lifting, is good for people in so many ways. It promotes flexibility, muscle tone, increases metabolism and reduces body pain that can occur with a sedentary lifestyle. It is not just for body builders and people looking to get “buff.”

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at a few studies specifically related to people with diabetes who improved their overall health and even lowered their blood glucose levels.


In a recent study of type 2 diabetics, the researchers concluded that strength training alone increased one’s quality of life. However, if you combine aerobic activity with it, like jogging, walking, etc., your positive results are increased even more. Thus, the more you exercise, the better your life will be.

This same result was echoed and amplified by a study published in 2012. The researchers found that strength or resistance training, combined with aerobic training lowered your A1c over the long term.

Again, the exercise mantra is clear: Start moving or else! Incorporating weight lifting into your routine is essential.

Other advantages of resistance training may not be as obvious. Doing exercises with hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the less fat you tend to have.

Additionally, muscle burns more calories than fat even when you are not exercising!! Other benefits include helping increase bone density, reducing osteoporosis, and increasing coordination and balance. Weight lifting also helps make everyday chores easier from carrying groceries to walking up a flight of steps.


diabetes-and-strength-trainingObviously, talk to your doctor about whether you have any restrictions to weight lifting.

If he or she gives the go ahead, the easiest way to get started is to join a health club. I would recommend hiring a personal trainer for a session or two. Learning to do the exercises properly will save you from getting injured.

The other key to getting started is to stretch a lot, particularly in the beginning. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so start slowly and work up your routine over time. Putting resistance on your muscles puts strain on them. Failing to stretch properly will lead to injury….and pain. Trust me on this one, stretch well.

Don’t want to spend the money on a gym? You could also get started investing in a home gym. You would be amazed at what you can do with some dumb bells and other small fitness equipment. Check out some YouTube videos on home strength training and will find a wealth of information.

Be Creative: My grandfather made his own dumbbells out of old pipes and concrete during the 1940’s. Talk about ingenuity! Just don’t be like most people. You have to stay motivated and use that equipment, whether you made it yourself, bought it in a store or use it in a gym!


Exercise Training and Quality of Life in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes: A randomized controlled trial, Diabetes Care. 2013 Feb 19 (accessed February 2013).
Differences in the acute effects of aerobic and resistance exercise in subjects with type 2 diabetes: results from the RAED2 Randomized Trial, PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e49937. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049937. Epub 2012 Dec 5 (accessed February 2013).
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed February 2013.