Do you need diabetic strength training? Here is why you should try it, what it does for you, and a few words of caution.
Strength training was not as familiar to me as walking, biking and running. Then I found out the benefits of this kind of workout.
Whether your goal is to lose weight or to get back on your feet after years of being sedentary, diabetic strength training will help you get there.
Walking, biking, swimming and jogging are aerobic exercise.
You can exercise this way for a long time, from 30 minutes up to hours after you build your endurance.
You should be able to talk while you do it. If you cannot, it means you need to slow down.
It is simple to measure how many calories you burn with aerobic exercise.
Free apps for phones and computers, or websites (like Fitness Pal and the American Diabetes Association) can tell you how many calories you burn.
All you do is type in your weight, the minutes, then add the type of exercise. They do the rest.
But diabetic strength training uses a different kind of energy called the glycolytic system. Because it does not use oxygen it is called anaerobic exercise.
Strength exercises use the breakdown of glucose for energy, which you can only do in short bursts.
Weight lifters, baseball players, gymnasts and sprinters use strength training.
They rest between the bursts of effort because glucose breakdown lasts for seconds up to minutes.
That is why strength trainers talk about "repetitions" and "sets." The periods of rest are just as important as the exercise.
The goal is not to see how long they can keep doing it. Instead they challenge sets of muscles and build up slowly.
Aerobic exercise such as walking strengthens your heart. It raises your good cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and burns calories.
For type 2 diabetics it lowers the need for medications by stimulating beta cells to make insulin.
What's more, it is the best exercise to fight Alzheimer dementia, and it will also lift you out of depression.
So why do you need diabetic strength training? Because it will build your bone and skeletal muscle strength.
That means fewer falls and better balance. Your coordination improves, so you can move around more easily.
Want more reasons? Strength training increases your metabolic rate, the speed at which your body burns calories.
You are replacing fat with muscle, which burns more calories. This is true even if your weight does not change.
More muscle mass lowers your insulin resistance, which is linked to excess fat around your organs.
Those muscles also make it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
On The Biggest Loser television show, trainers use a
combination of aerobic and strength training along with diet changes. They have seen every type 2
diabetic contestant who finishes the show stop needing medications.
Strength training is more of a science than walking, so it takes some time to learn how to do it right.
There are websites full of videos that will help you learn sets of exercises.
Some use weights that you hold or strap on. Others use elastic bands or machines that give your muscles something to resist.
That resistance is how you build muscles.
For diabetic strength training, technique is everything. Doing exercises in the wrong way will waste your time at the least, and you could get hurt.
A trainer will explain how many repetitions of each exercise you should do and when it is time to stop.
He or she will teach you how to alternate muscle groups so none are left out, so it is best to start with a trainer.
You can find one from a video or, better yet, in an exercise class at the Y or a fitness gym. That is the best way to learn a good routine.
You might find that you enjoy yoga or Pilates, both of which build what trainers call core strength.
Your core strength means the skeletal muscles you depend on every day for balance and easy moving.
Because we older diabetics have problems like peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, we need to be careful with any new kind of exercise.
That is especially true for strength training. It is too easy to injure yourself if you are not ready for it.
Do not start any new exercise without talking to your doctor. The longer you have diabetes the more likely it is that peripheral neuropathy has damaged your feet and legs, making them less sensitive to injury.
Autonomic neuropathy means you cannot depend on your pulse rate to tell you what stress you are putting on your heart.
If you have neuropathies your doctor might suggest exercise that does not depend on good balance. This will protect you from falling injuries.
Things like resistance biking (you could try a spin class), swimming, rowing and arm exercises are things you can do safely.
Cooling down after exercise is more important with autonomic neuropathy too. Your blood pressure might drop fast when you stop your workout.
The cool down period gives your heart and other systems time to adjust. If you feel dizzy at any time you need to tell your doctor about it.
Check your feet before and after exercise for trouble spots, because feet that are numb from diabetic neuropathy will not warn you where blisters are forming.
If you exercise outside, autonomic neuropathy means you need to avoid high heat or extreme cold.
You will need to drink some water before you exercise as well as during and after if your session is longer than a few minutes.
Make sure you wear your diabetic identification jewelry and carry a rescue snack in case of low blood sugar.
Strength training starts slowly so you will not overdo and hurt your
muscles. Never skip the warm-up.
You must vary the muscles you use. Do not do the same exercise over and over.
Also your trainers teach you to breathe through every exercise. Holding your breath is a huge no-no.
You cannot do diabetic strength training every day. A day or two of rest between sessions gives muscles a chance to build up.
Rest days are a huge part of the whole process of raising skeletal muscle strength.
A few minutes every other day for diabetic strength training will give you amazing returns for your health.
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