Resistance Training to Improve Blood Sugar

Find Out Why Resistance Training Will Help to Fight Your Type 2 Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome

Many of us are very familiar with the positive effects aerobic training can have on blood sugar (glucose) control, but did you know that resistance training can be extremely beneficial as well?  Skeletal muscle is actually a very key site in the body for uptake of glucose from the blood. Contracting muscle can act to influence metabolism in other tissues and organs through secretion of protein communicators called myokines.  One myokine in particular, known as IL-6, helps to increase blood sugar uptake, as well as improve utilization of fat (1, 2, 3).

Another way by which resistance training works to improve blood sugar is through increases in insulin sensitivity (4).  Insulin is a very important hormone that regulates entry of sugar into almost all tissues in our body.  In individuals with “insulin resistance”, our body is releasing high levels of insulin in response to a rise in blood sugar to be able to get this sugar into our cells. Continued, chronic elevations in insulin is associated with not only type 2 diabetes, but hypertension and increased risk for coronary artery disease as well (5).  An individual who is more “insulin sensitive” will be able to use less amounts of insulin to take up the same amount of blood glucose.

Interestingly, resistance training has also been shown to improve blood sugar transport into muscle by increasing the number of glucose transporters (GLUT-4) in skeletal muscle fibers (6).  GLUT-4 is an important protein that essentially allows the sugar to enter into the cell and be converted into energy. Researchers saw this increase in GLUT-4 independent of increases in skeletal muscle mass, meaning that you do not have to gain large amounts of muscle to derive the benefits of resistance training!

Both aerobic and resistance provide benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes, however, researchers have shown that only a combination of the two was associated with reductions in HbA1c levels, another marker of blood sugar control (7).  Therefore, if you are currently only aerobic or resistance training, I would highly encourage you to consider engaging in both, a proven “prescription” for improving blood sugar levels!