Strength training when done correctly has been shown to provide a safe and effective way to control blood glucose, increase strength, and improve the quality of life in individuals with diabetes.
Strength training (in the form of weight lifting) is also an effective form of exercise for the vast majority of diabetic patients. It helps improve muscle tone and in some cases increases muscle size. Larger muscles burn more calories even when you are resting, therefore regular resistance training can help lose fat and control blood glucose 24 hours a day. It may also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Before starting any weight lifting routine see your doctor as lifting weights for some diabetics may worsen their diabetic complications.
DO NOT do strength training if you have type 1 diabetes and your blood glucose level is greater than 250mg/dl or if you have high levels of ketones in your urine. High urinary ketones means that your insulin is too low and your body is breaking down fats for fuel. Don't exercise until you've got your glucose down near normal and your ketones down to just traces.
And please, Don't do resistance training with either type of diabetes if your blood glucose is greater than 300mg/dl.
How Hard To Exercise
The intensity at which you should start exercising, depends on your physical condition, age and previous exercise background. What is light exercise to one individual, may be hard for another.
Therefore your starting level will depend on your exercise background, physical status and the duration of the exercise to be performed.
There are several ways to monitor how hard you are exercising. One is to work between 60 - 80% of your heart rate. For those people who are starting back into exercise after a very long time, levels of 40 - 60% may be recommended until fitness improves.
Strength Training Guidelines for People With Diabetes
Number of sets and repetitions. 1-2 sets per exercise is a good starting point for you. Repetitions can be established in the same manner as you would for an individual without diabetes. Base your individual goals on your exercise tolerance. In general, use lower repetitions/higher resistance for strength and higher repetitions/lower resistance for endurance.
Rest time between sets. Using 30-60 seconds for the rest period is appropriate in most situations. With greater intensity bouts a slightly longer (up to 2 minutes) rest period may be necessary.
Frequency of strength training. Having strength train at least two days per week is appropriate in order to see beneficial results from the type of exercise.
Duration of Your Workout
If you are just starting or returning to exercise after a long time off you should begin by slowly building up to a target of around 30 - 60 minutes per exercise session. Always make sure that you do enough warm up for around 5 minutes, this includes stretching taking deep breaths.
A good way to start back into physical activity is by increasing your general every day activity.
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator at the office.
Regular morning walks for 30 minutes at a brisk pace.
Clinical Considerations Regarding Weight Training for Diabetics
Some considerations regarding exercise prescription involve lessening the risks involved with exercising people with diabetes. In cases where you have cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure, you need to consult your physician before progressing. Also, use lighter weights , as they will not increase blood pressure as much as the higher loads. It is also important to attempt to minimize the risk of you developing hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) during exercise. Regular meals such as eating 2 hours before exercise, having a light meal just before exercise, checking your blood glucose before and during exercising, and knowing the warning signs of hypoglycemia will help exercise tolerance. Knowing when to stop exercise and seek emergency care is a point that cannot be overstated. You should consult your dietitian on what foods are appropriate to eat before, during, and after workout. Also follow general exercise guidelines such as proper warming up and cool-down, safe footwear, adequate hydration, and avoid exercising in extreme conditions.
THE DO's Regarding Strength Training.
- Try to get into a good routine by exercising at the same time each day whether this be in the morning or afternoon, evening or maybe midnight!
- Take special care of your feet. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
- Get a workout partner in the gymnasium. This will help motivate you and protect you in case an emergency situation should develop.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids before, during and after activity. By the time you're aware of being thirsty you're already significantly dehydrated.
- Be sure to carry identification including diabetes medical identification.
- Forget "no pain, no gain" on this one. If something hurts or you feel to hard to do a particular exercise immediately stop that. It's no fun to workout in pain and doing so risks injury.
- Forget intensity here. Focus on regularity. Slow and steady wins the race to fitness and better health for diabetics. Workout everyday with light workloads for best results.