Strength Training for Diabetes

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Strength Training for Diabetes

Strength training has multiple health benefits, especially for people with diabetes. The best-known type of strength training is lifting free weights such as barbells and dumbbells, but, when used incorrectly, this equipment can cause injury. Here are some safer methods of strength training.

Strength-training benefits

Those of us who aren’t professional weightlifters or wrestlers might wonder why strength is so important. For mere mortals like us, strength is crucial for good balance and for everyday tasks such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of chairs, and carrying groceries. Strength training also increases bone density, helping to ward off osteoporosis.

Like cardiovascular exercise, strength training lowers blood glucose levels, and it also increases insulin sensitivity by building muscle. Having more muscle mass means using more glucose for energy (thereby lowering blood glucose) and burning more calories even when you’re sitting still.

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Safer approaches

Functional strength training

Among the safest and most useful type of strength exercise is functional strength training, which relies on the body’s own weight. Functional strength exercises include squats, lunges, planks, and pushups.


Squats are excellent for strengthening the core as well as the legs. To perform squats, start with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart, extend your arms in front of you, pull in your navel, and lower your butt as far as you can, making sure your knees don’t jut beyond your toes. Repeat this exercise 15-20 times.


Lunges involve stepping forward with one foot, dipping down as far as is comfortable, and returning to the original standing position (again, keeping the knees behind the toes). They should be repeated 15-20 times on either side.


Planks are performed by getting into the top of a pushup position with arms shoulder-width apart, and holding for 30 seconds or more.


People who cringe at the thought of pushups might not be aware of some modifications that make them easier. One is to keep your knees on the floor as you perform them, and another is to do pushups against a wall or door frame while standing up and leaning forward. Once you’ve done enough of these modified pushups, you might develop the strength and stamina to do regular pushups.

Resistance bands

Elastic resistance bands are great for building up and toning many different muscle groups. The bands, which are available in many gyms and are extremely inexpensive, come in different colors to indicate different levels of resistance. They can be used for anything from bicep curls to rows to leg workouts. Commercially sold bands come with instructions for various different exercises for the upper and lower body, and instructions and videos are available online as well.

Medicine balls

Medicine balls are cushioned balls roughly the size of basketballs. They come in multiple weights and can be used for a range of exercises. They’re great for working core muscles and can be used to strengthen the arms through movements such as bicep curls and overhead lifts. Like resistance bands, medicine balls usually come with instructions, and there is also lots of information online about how to use them.

Train safely. Stay strong!

Want to learn more about strength training? Read “Resistance Training for Diabetes.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor on social media

A contributing editor at Diabetes Self-Management, Dinsmoor is an award-winning medical journalist who has written hundreds of articles on health and medicine, including dozens related to diabetes.

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