Strength Training and Type 2 Diabetes

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Jan 16, 2018

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 .

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at www.shirleyarcher.com.

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