A regular exercise program can help people with type 2 diabetes to manage blood sugar levels and maintain or improve fitness levels and overall health. In “Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association,” the association recommends two to three sessions of resistance exercise per week, on nonconsecutive days, in addition to other types of physical activity. Resistance training for people with type 2 diabetes improves glycemic control, insulin resistance, body composition, blood pressure and strength. People with diabetes are at a higher-than-average risk for low muscular strength and loss of functional abilities.
IDEA member Cary Raffle, MS, an NASM-certified personal trainer and ACE-certified orthopedic exercise specialist in New York City, works with many clients who have diabetes. Raffle offers the following training tips for such clients:
- Strength train a minimum of twice a week.
- Consult a doctor regarding how to best monitor blood sugar levels. Check blood sugar before and after training sessions.
- Eat a light snack of at least 15 grams of carbohydrates prior to training. If the workout will be longer than 1 hour, also eat at least 1 ounce of protein.
When training someone with diabetes, Raffle says, discuss medical background, exercise experience and injury history during the initial assessment. As diabetes advances, it can impair vision and lead to peripheral neuropathies, especially problems with the feet, so you may need to add a strong balance component in the program. In particular, show clients how to exercise without pain, and be supportive of their needs, as they may feel embarrassed by their appearance or gym inexperience. Provide slow, steady progression to give clients confidence.
To read the position statement, go to care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/39/11/2065.full.pdf .
Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA
Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.
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