Q: Is weight training beneficial for people with diabetes?
A: In general, weight training is a safe and effective physical activity when properly done. The American College of Sports Medicine recently advocated weight training for the average adult because of its important health benefits. Benefits include fitness, reduced number of falls in senior citizens, hardening of bone thus combating osteoporosis, and even improved level of good HDL cholesterol in the blood.
For those with diabetes, weight training has some unique values, including building muscle mass, which increases resting metabolic rate. About 60 percent of all the energy expended daily is attributed to resting metabolism, so a minor elevation of it is of value in losing weight and keeping it off. It is well known that weight loss and physical activity both decrease insulin resistance, which permits taking less insulin or oral medication. Any type of exercise facilitates burning energy and aiding blood glucose management and reducing problems associated with hyperglycemia. This is particularly true for those with type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes who have retinopathy, hypertension, and heart disease should consult their physician before starting a weight training program. It may be recommended to lift light to moderate loads to reduce the extent that the blood pressure rises during training. This reduces the load on the heart and the tendency for hemorrhaging in the eyes. Younger people with diabetes who use insulin should be aware that strenuous lifting may cause the blood sugar to rise rather than fall during and after training. This appears to be caused by the release of stress hormones with intense exercise.
Select light loads and perform only one or two sets of about 10 to 15 repetitions when initiating a program. Failure to do this can produce extreme soreness that persists for several days. Emphasize exercises that develop large muscle groups on each side of the major joints. Perform each movement slowly and under control, and do not hold the breath. It may be worth a few dollars to be supervised by a personal trainer or exercise specialist at a local university fitness program, YMCA, etc. They will see that you learn proper lifting technique and guide you into a well-rounded training program. To assure that they are qualified, check to see that they have a degree in exercise science or physical education, and/or are certified by the American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.