Can Lifting Weights Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Research shows that while lifting weights provides excellent benefits for preventing and reducing the risk of diabetes, the best combination is weightlifting plus aerobic exercise. Learn more about how you can take steps to keep yourself healthier and increase your quality of life.
Blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes prevention

It’s important to make a distinction between the prevention of Type 2 diabetes versus the things that a person can do to reduce the risk and protect against Type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 5 main things you can do for diabetes prevention, which include:

  • Losing excess fat weight
  • Be more physically active
  • Eat healthy plant foods
  • Eat healthy fats
  • Skip fad diets and make consistently healthier food choices

Understanding that diabetes prevention and management consists of each of these components will give you the best chance at either preventing Type 2 diabetes or protecting yourself against the complications of diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetic test kit

The digestive system converts carbohydrates into glucose that enters the bloodstream. Cells absorb the glucose by using a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas, and when your cells don’t produce enough insulin, glucose will build up in the bloodstream leading to diabetes. Diabetes is an abundance of glucose in the blood, also called high blood sugar. It damages the blood vessels and nerves and can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and amputations.

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The complications of Type 2 diabetes can be debilitating, which should give a person ample motivation to take whatever action necessary to prevent a diabetic diagnosis. Common diabetes health complications include:

  • Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease (nephropathy)
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Problems with feet which can lead to amputation
  • Oral Health
  • Eye problems (retinopathy)
  • Hearing
  • Mental health

The Importance of Nutrition for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy diet and exercise

Both diet and exercise are key components of a successful strategy to avoid or manage Type 2 diabetes. Diet and exercise combined can help you lose weight, which may help move your blood sugar levels closer to the normal range. Lifting weights is an excellent, if not the best, form of exercise for fat loss, but the health benefits truly happen when you combine diet and exercise to lose extra weight.

Losing weight reduces the risk of diabetes – studies show that the risk of developing diabetes can be reduced by as much as 60% after losing just 7% of your body weight. Combining a healthy diet that includes low-starch vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats will complement your weightlifting exercises.

How Does Strength Training Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Strength training improves insulin health and lowers high blood sugar levels. Scientists are finding that people with diabetes can benefit from regular weightlifting or strength training. This is because strength training can be more beneficial to blood sugar regulation than cardio. Weightlifting increases muscle mass which helps with the following:

  • Respond better to insulin
  • Improve the way your body uses blood sugar through the development of more muscle
  • Weight loss

Strength Training and Insulin Sensitivity

The problem with diabetes is that your body is not producing or not responding well to the insulin that’s needed to control blood sugar. Weightlifting boosts your insulin sensitivity, which means your body responds better to insulin and controls your blood sugar. Strength training boosts insulin sensitivity (improves insulin resistance) as much or more than aerobic exercise alone. Doing both weightlifting and aerobic exercise together gives you the best defense against Type 2 Diabetes.

Having More Muscle Can Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Woman lifting weights

Muscle creates the largest system in your body to store blood sugar after eating. While some is stored in the liver, the majority is stored in muscle. Having lots of muscle means there’s more space to store blood sugar. When your body doesn’t need glucose right away, it stores it as glycogen in both your liver and muscles. The body then has a complex system for pulling blood sugar from these storage systems when it needs it to give energy. The more muscle you have, the better your body’s storage system for blood sugar.

The Takeaway: Combine Weightlifting with Cardio for Best Results

Research shows that while lifting weights provides excellent benefits for preventing and reducing the risk of diabetes, the best combination is weightlifting plus aerobic exercise. Studies show that the best results come when strength training is combined with aerobic exercise. A combination of weightlifting and cardio burns up blood sugar, improves glucose storage, spurs weight loss, and targets harmful belly fat, which can all aid in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. Strength training also protects against diabetes complications by improving heart health, boosting bone density, preventing age-related muscle loss, and reducing the risk of vision loss due to diabetes complications.

Nutrition for Type 2 Diabetes

For more information on nutrition and health management for Type 2 diabetes, read about this Fast-Mimicking Diet that may improve health when you have Type 2 diabetes.

Lifting Weights To Prevent or Improve Type 2 Diabetes

Get started with a muscle-building workout by targeting all major muscle groups in this 5×5 Muscle Building Workout.

Read Next:

How To Begin Weightlifting At 50 And Beyond

Lose Weight and Get Healthier with Habit Stacking

Type 2 Diabetes & Prediabetes: What to Know & How to Manage


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