What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is on the rise in Australia and the rest of the world and has reached epidemic proportions. Scary isn’t it? Without going into too much detail, diabetes is essentially a condition where the body is not able to regulate its blood glucose levels. For our bodies to work properly we need to be able to convert glucose into energy. Glucose (sugar) is carried in the blood and uses a hormone called insulin (produced by the pancreas) to convert into energy for use by the cells of our muscles. In people with diabetes insulin is no longer produced, or not produced in enough amounts so the glucose remains in the blood stream.
Some of the symptoms people experience are:
Feeling tired and lethargic, always feeling hungry, having cuts that heal slowly, skin infections, blurred vision, gradual weight gain, mood swings, headaches and dizziness.
Am I at risk?
You are more chance of becoming diabetic if you have a family history of diabetes or if you are over 55 years of age – as the risk increases as we age. You are also at risk if you are over 45 years of age and are overweight or have high blood pressure or you are over 35 years of age and are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background. Women who had gestational diabetes when pregnant, are also higher risk. But I don’t want to freak anyone out here, what I do want to talk about is how weight training can help with management of diabetes.
Benefits of Strength Training
There are so many benefits to strength training: increased muscle strength and power, increased muscle size and endurance, reduction in body fat, increased bone mineral density, increased metabolic rate, lower blood pressure, increased sense of well being and self esteem… do I need to keep going? Particularly for people with diabetes, strength training and increased muscle mass means more uptake of insulin into the muscle, (and therefore less glucose floating around in the bloodstream causing trouble.) Exercise increases the amount of insulin receptors released and an increase in muscle cells from strength training means more opportunities for insulin to bind to those receptors and move glucose from the blood into the cells.
Where to start?
Strength training programs should be designed by qualified trainers (and supervised where possible) and and be reviewed regularly so that weights are gradually increased. Contrary to the popular belief that exercise should be light, research shows that type 2 diabetics, with no other contraindications, will experience the most benefit from moderate to hard weight training sessions. If you are keen to find out more about the research you can do so here
Other links that might be of interest:
If you think you know someone who might be at risk of type 2 diabetes, their GP is the best place to start.