Benefits of Building Muscle for Weight Management and Diabetes Control

By Samantha Sullivan-Holness

Benefits of Building Muscle for Weight Management and Diabetes Control

Regular physical activity is a vital component of staying healthy for all people, but it is especially important for the health and wellbeing of those living with diabetes. Aerobic and strength-based activities are beneficial for both weight management and diabetes self-management.

Strength-based activity increases lean muscle mass and prevents muscle loss as you age. Increased lean muscle mass helps to burn calories more efficiently, which may help manage your weight, control your blood glucose levels, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The American Diabetes Association recommends at least some form of strength training at least two times a week in addition to engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.

Use these strategies to get started with integrating strength-based and aerobic activities into your weekly routine:

  • Incorporate resistance bands or hand weights at home. Tip: If you do not have either, consider lifting canned goods in order to develop your strength-based activity habit.
  • Begin with lighter weights, then increase your weight as your strength builds.
  • Lift your own body weight by incorporating lunges, squats, or push-ups.
  • Join a gym with weight machines or group fitness classes.

It's also important to be safe when incorporating strength-based activity with diabetes:

  • Discuss any new activity regimen with your physician, as well as their recommended blood glucose ranges for you. Your physician may recommend you avoid or limit activity when your blood glucose levels are within a certain range.
  • Engage in safe pre-exercise routines by checking your blood glucose levels before activity. Physical activity may decrease your blood glucose levels, so be sure to develop a game plan with your physician ahead of time so you know what to do if you experience low blood glucose.
  • Always keep items on hand to treat low blood glucose levels.
  • Hydrate regularly to minimize your risk of dehydration.
  • Consider warming up your muscles with aerobic activity for about 10 minutes to reduce the risk of injury before incorporating strength-based activities.
  • Focus on your breath. Exhale when you lift the weight and inhale when you lower the weight.
  • Focus on your form. Use proper lifting technique to avoid injury. If you are not familiar with proper lifting technique, speak with an exercise physiologist or personal trainer.
  • Make time to stretch your muscles to help increase your blood flow and circulation.
  • Wear a medical ID such as a necklace or bracelet. A medical ID notifies emergency personnel of your medical condition should you require immediate medical assistance.
  • Care for your feet. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes. Diabetics may experience foot problems due to poor blood flow or nerve damage. Check your feet before and after workouts.

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Orignially published on July 9, 2019, updated on July 17, 2020

Topic: Weight Management

Samantha Sullivan-Holness

About Samantha Sullivan-Holness

Samantha Sullivan-Holness, MS, RD is a health coach and senior team lead with Cecelia Health. Samantha genuinely cares about client and coach success. Samantha partners with clients to achieve their health goals and provides guidance to coaches to maximize their potential. Samantha most enjoys being active outdoors.