Patient Blogs | Diabetes
What I've Learned About Weightlifting With Type 2

When you consider improving your diabetes care, what comes to mind? 

Perhaps you’re thinking about losing some weight, getting extra cardio, watching your carb intake, or tracking your blood glucose readings with more care. You may already be taking your meds according to schedule and paying closer attention to your cholesterol and triglyceride readings.

But what about adding weightlifting to your type 2 care?

I know, I know. Yet another item on your diabetes to-do list may make you want to scream.

Yet pumping iron may help with everything listed above. More than steady-state cardio -- stationary biking, rowing, or walking -- research shows that regular weightlifting can lower your sugars and reduce your weight, particularly that hard-to-budge belly fat. It helps to burn glucose, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve heart health and blood flow, which can help prevent neuropathy and retinopathy, two troublesome complications.

If you’ve already committed to a weightlifting routine, congrats. If you’re not, here are some tips based on my own years of lifting:

Start with a warmup. Marching in place and easy stretching can get your heart rate pumping and your muscles ready to work.

Go slow. Overdoing it means injury. It’s more important to perfect your form than to rack up repetitions. Fewer sets done correctly is the ticket.

Find a routine that suits you. Some people lift four times a week, varying upper body routines and lower body routines. Others work their core every day of the week. Experiment with different workouts to see how your body responds. You might be a little sore at the start, but if you find yourself really dragging, back off. Personally, I’ve found that two to three times a week for an hour at a time is my sweet spot.

Listen to your body. In January, I tore my meniscus in my right knee -- ouch! -- and my orthopedist ruled out squats and lunges for the foreseeable future. It took a while, but I eventually found some exercises that toned my quads without putting excessive stress on my poor knees.

Calibrate your weights. Women often lift too little; men often go too heavy. While you’re learning and perfecting your form, 3- or 5-pound weights may be enough. When you feel you’ve mastered an exercise, don't be afraid to add some weight. The point is to exhaust the muscle, and repeatedly lifting a 2-pound weight may not do the trick.

Head online. During the pandemic, the number of exercise videos offering weight loss instruction -- both free and paid -- has increased exponentially. Look for trainers that stress good form and take the time to explain what you’re about to do and why.

Stay hydrated. You might be surprised how strenuous -- and sweaty -- weightlifting can be. Keep a bottle of water nearby and drink, often. Also, because you are burning sugar, watch out for possible lows

Follow up with a cooldown. Stretching at the end of the workout can prevent sore muscles and lower your heart rate.




Photo Credit: Jordan Vanerzalm/EyeEm via Getty Images

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Ilene Raymond Rush

Ilene Raymond Rush

Award-winning health and science writer

Ilene Raymond Rush is an award-winning health and science freelance writer. Based on her own experiences with type 2 diabetes, she brings a personal take and a reporter’s eye to examine the best and newest methods of treating and controlling the disease.

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