5 Benefits of Resistance Training
Safety Note: Check with your health care provider before starting or changing your exercise plan.
1. Lower Blood Glucose
Strength training builds muscle mass, which in turn lowers blood glucose levels. “There are two places your body stores glucose: your muscles and your liver,” says Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, FACSM, professor emerita of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Your skeletal muscles hold about twice as much glucose as your liver. Greater muscle mass provides more storage space for glucose, which your body can use through either aerobic exercises (such as swimming or brisk walking) or anaerobic activity (such as weight lifting). One Japanese study published last year in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation found that when people in their 60s engaged in low-intensity resistance training twice a week for 16 weeks, they lowered their A1C.
2. Weight Maintenance
“When you build muscle mass, you crank up your metabolism, which in turn makes it easier for you to lose weight and maintain [the loss],” says Karen Kemmis, PT, CDE, a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. Muscle burns more calories—even at rest—than fat. So as your muscle mass increases and your metabolic rate goes up, it’s easier to maintain a healthy body weight.
People with diabetes, particularly those who are older or who have neuropathy (nerve damage that can cause numbness in the legs and feet), may have balance problems. Such issues can raise your risk of falling—and fall-related injuries. Older adults with type 2 who did resistance training for six weeks were significantly less likely to fall than those who didn’t, according to a study published in 2010 in Diabetes Care.
4. Bone strength
Compared with people who don’t have diabetes, those with type 1 are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis (a disease in which bones become weak or brittle), while those with type 2 have a greater risk of fractures, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Resistance training helps build stronger bones by putting stress on them, which stimulates bone cells to grow.
Strength training can also lift your spirits. A review of 33 studies—including three that focused on people with type 2—published in 2018 in JAMA Psychiatry found that regular strength-training sessions reduced symptoms of depression. Researchers suspect that, just like aerobic exercise, strength training raises levels of feel-good brain hormones called endorphins.