The American Diabetes Association recommends incorporating both aerobic and weight training exercise for managing Type 2 diabetes. (Reference 1) Diabetics benefit from resulting weight loss, muscle strength and improved general health from engaging in fun activities. (Reference 2) There’s no reason to skip a workout because it feels like work.
Losing weight is one of the best things you can do to manage your Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, burning body fat increases your body’s ability to use blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. Aerobic exercise is the best way to burn body fat, according to Duke Medicine researchers. (Reference 2) The easiest aerobic exercise is walking — just you, your shoes and a scenic trail. You can also try dancing, riding a bike, skiing and tennis. Look for classes at your local fitness center, YMCA or studio to sample different aerobic activities. You may find something that makes 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise more fun than watching your favorite sitcom on television. Try to fit in this amount of aerobic activity 5 days a week. (Reference 1)
Resistance training, including weight lifting, builds muscles. Having toned, strong muscles increases metabolism. (Reference 2) A higher metabolism burns more calories, even when you’re sleeping or sitting at your desk. The American Diabetes Association recommends incorporating strength training into your exercise plan 2 to 3 days per week. Fitness centers have a number of machines to help develop your muscles. However, you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to build muscle. You can use your own body weight and gravity with pushups, sit ups, planks and squats. (Reference 1) Still seem like work? Consider volunteering at the local food shelter packing and moving boxes or rearrange your furniture.
Diabetics who can’t find 30 minutes in their day for aerobic exercises can reap all the benefits of aerobic exercise by breaking workouts up into three 10-minute sessions. During these sessions, you perform the activity for a period of high-intensity spurts interspersed with low-intensity intervals. For example, instead of running at a steady pace for 30 minutes, your 10-minute sessions may include five 60-second intervals where you run at full speed alternating with five 60-second intervals where you walk at a brisk pace. If you’re just starting out, your high-intensity interval may last for only 30 seconds, while your low-intensity interval lasts for 90 seconds. (Reference 3) Play tennis, kickball or jump rope to add some fun to your workout.
Winning Combination for People with Diabetes
The best workout program for diabetics combines aerobic and strength training, although benefits are mixed. Various studies have found that a combination approach to exercise helped people with Type 2 diabetes better control blood sugar levels. (References 5-6) In fact, one study showed that the group who used both types of workouts doubled the reduction in average blood glucose when compared to the aerobic and weight training groups. (Reference 5) Duke Medicine researchers found that a combination of aerobic and resistance training required twice the workout time as aerobics alone. While those participating in the combination program experienced weight loss and a slimmer waistline, they did not see significant results in a loss of body fat. (Reference 3) Since having excess belly fat increases insulin resistance, a combination exercise program that slims the waist is the best fitness option for people with Type 2 diabetes. (References 7-8)