When we think about exercise to manage conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, it’s common for people to focus on cardio. One reason may be because weight loss is key to managing and preventing chronic conditions and there is a well established misconception that burning more calories by completing tons of cardio is the answer to weight loss. A research-backed approach to decreasing body fat with exercise requires us to take two approaches. We’ll need to burn more energy AND build muscle.
Build Muscle to Burn More
As previously mentioned, weight loss is important in managing and preventing chronic conditions; losing just 10 lbs can reduce A1C levels, improve HDL & LDL, lower inflammation, and improve insulin action. The more muscle we have on our bodies, the more energy we’ll burn with everything we do. So as we increase muscle mass, we increase the effectiveness of every workout and create a greater energy deficit. With a greater energy deficit on a regular basis we’re able to lose weight.
Build Muscle to Prevent Insulin Resistance
The benefits of strength training don’t stop at weight loss, they also include musculoskeletal function, balance, heart health and tt can surprisingly prevent and reverse insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes, is a major cause of type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, approximately 96 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. More than 80% of those don’t know they have it. How does it work? Once we use up the stored energy (glucose) in our bodies during a workout, we’ll begin using the energy in our liver and blood. Over time this uptake improves blood glucose control and reduces the risk of insulin resistance; delaying or even preventing type-2 diabetes.
Build Muscle to Improve Lipids, Blood Pressure, and Heart Health
Strength training can also positively affect lipids, blood pressure, and heart health; lowering our risk for dyslipidemia, hypertension, and cardiovascular events. Strength training stimulates enzymes that move LDL cholesterol from the blood to the liver where it’s digested or excreted. So the more we exercise, the more LDL our bodies expel. Regular physical activity will make our hearts stronger. This will allow us to pump more blood with less effort; decreasing the pressure on our arteries and lowering blood pressure. Strength training also improves the muscles’ ability to pull oxygen out of the blood, reducing the need for the heart to pump more blood to the muscles. This will reduce stress hormones that can put an extra stress on the heart.
Physical Activity Readiness and Chronic Conditions
Physical activity is generally good for most bodies. However there are some instances when we should check with our physician before becoming much more physically active. If you’ve can answer yes to the questions below, you should receive medical clearance before becoming more physically active. You can also try this PARQ self screening tool for a little more help.
- Do you currently experience sign or symptoms of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, or renal disease?
- Are you a current exercises with signs or symptoms of who wants to begin vigorous activity
Recommendations to Get Started
When beginning a strength training program start small and look to make gradual progress. Just how much strength training is required to reap diabetes preventing benefits? A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Journal demonstrated that even “Moderate strength training and an increase in overall muscle mass were shown to reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 32 percent.” Performing a full-body, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine, like the ones listed below, just twice a week will do the trick.
American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations for People with Diabetes
- Type: Free weights, bands machines, or bodyweight
- Intensity: Moderate to vigorous
- Duration: 8-10 exercises, 1-3 sets, 10-15 repetitions
- Frequency: At least 2 days a week, 3 would be better, 1 day of rest between sessions
- Progression: Increase resistance and lower repetitions