Two Tips to improve blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity!

Effectively managing Type 2 diabetes involves more than just medication and food choices. Incorporating exercise and movement can significantly impact blood glucose levels, overall well-being and support the management or remission of type 2 diabetes. In this article, we will explore two practical tips that can make a huge difference.

Tip 1: Strength Training for Improved Blood Sugar Control

One powerful strategy to enhance Type 2 diabetes (as well as Type 1 diabetes) is incorporating strength training aka resistance training, into your routine. Resistance training has shown superior benefits for diabetes and pre-diabetes compared to other forms of exercise [1-3]. Put Pilates and yoga aside! If you live with diabetes, strength/resistance training is the number one type of exercise to be doing.

Muscle is the largest depot for glucose
Muscle is your largest organ and responsible for 80%-90% of carbohydrate/glucose metabolism. If our muscles are already full or muscle quality is poor, the carbohydrate we eat will likely be stored as fat and/or will leave a diabetic with high blood glucose levels. Poor muscle quality = Poor glucose metabolism. Why resistance training matters;

Enhanced Glucose Utilization, Uptake and Storage capacity
As muscles engage during resistance training, they demand and use high amounts of glucose for energy. This increased utilization helps reduce glucose storage in the muscle tissue and increases glucose uptake (Exercise can increase glucose uptake by 50 times!), helping clear excess glucose from the bloodstream and contributing to improved blood glucose control [4, 5]. Due to an increase in glucose transporters and storage capacity of muscle, blood glucose levels are improved.

Increased Insulin Sensitivity:
Type 2 diabetes involves “insulin resistance” which occurs when our insulin receptors on our cells cannot properly respond to the hormone insulin. Imagine insulin as a “key” and your insulin receptors as the “lock”, if our lock has become “rusty” it can no longer be unlocked by the “key” insulin. This causes increased blood glucose levels in our bloodstream and more insulin to be released to try unlock the door, leading to high insulin levels which causes weight gain as well as other dysfunctions. Resistance training has been proven to boost insulin sensitivity and increase the amount of insulin receptors, enabling cells to better respond to insulin and regulate blood glucose levels [4, 6, 8]. Resistance training also reduces insulin levels including fasting insulin levels [7]. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, and a reduction in insulin makes it easier to lose fat!

Immediate benefits:
Beneficial effects of increased insulin sensitivity and improved glucose control from resistance training can occur after a single resistance exercise session and can last for up to 72 hours [6, 9-11].

Weight Management:
As stated above, resistance exercise uses lots of glucose for fuel, resistance training also stimulates specific hormones to be released as well as reducing the fat storage hormone insulin. This causes the body to use more fat as fuel after the session is completed [12-14]. On a long-term, building lean muscle mass and improving the quality of muscle tissue through resistance training is a key factor in weight management. Improved muscle quality raises the body’s basal metabolic rate, supporting weight loss or weight maintenance [15, 16].

If you need help with a resistance training program, contact us and we would be happy to create a tailored exercise program to improve diabetes! 

Tip 2: Post Meal Movement

Another simple yet effective tip for managing Type 2 diabetes is incorporating post-meal movement, such as short 5-10 minute walks. Here’s why this matters:

Improved Glucose Regulation:
Physical activity after meals has been shown to improve post-meal glucose levels. Taking a short walk after eating can assist in stabilising blood glucose spikes from the meal you just ate. The working limbs demand for energy and this helps direct the energy you consumed towards the working limbs to be used as fuel, preventing sharp spikes in blood glucose levels and preventing the energy being stored as fat in the abdominal or visceral organ area. Post-meal walking is best completed 30-minute after a meal [18-20].

Digestive Benefits:
Light physical activity aids in digestion and can prevent feelings of bloating or discomfort after meals. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with Type 2 diabetes, promoting better overall digestive health. This study shows that those who completed more steps per day had less gastrointestinal symptoms [21].

Incorporating resistance training and post-meal movement into your routine can be transformative for managing Type 2 diabetes. These simple yet impactful lifestyle changes offer benefits beyond blood sugar control, including improved insulin sensitivity, weight management, and overall well-being. By embracing these two tips, you’re taking proactive steps toward enhancing your diabetes management and fostering a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Expert Author: Christopher Kondos (Accredited Exercise Physiologist and founder of Sydney Exercise Medicine).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to engage in physical activity if I have diabetes?

Yes, exercising with diabetes is generally safe and can be a potent tool in controlling blood sugar levels and mitigating diabetes-related complications. However, it is crucial to consult with an exercise physiologist before initiating an exercise regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or complications. An exercise physiologist has university knowledge in relation to diabetes and has the skillset to provide with tailored, safe and effective exercise.

What type of exercise is most effective for type 2 diabetes?

Resistance training has proven to be superior compared to other forms of exercise in regulating blood glucose levels for individuals with diabetes. This type of exercise uses glucose for fuel, improves insulin sensitivity, focuses on increasing muscle mass & quality and leads to an increase of the protein “Glut4” (glucose transporters) which acts as a shuttle, facilitating the transport of glucose into active muscle cells for energy utilization.

Why does resistance training increase my blood glucose levels?

During resistance training and for a short period after resistance training, you may find that your blood glucose levels have increased, this is completely normal. Resistance training increases hormones such as adrenaline and epinephrine. As your body senses the need for more energy, these hormones cause the liver to release glucose. These hormones are also beneficial as they stimulate the break down of fat tissue. However, shortly after resistance training, these hormones will clear from the bloodstream and blood glucose reductions will be evident for up to 72 hours due to the stated benefits outlined in the article.

How frequently should I exercise if I have diabetes?

It is recommended that individuals complete resistance training 2-3 days per week. It is also recommended to complete 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week or 30 minutes per day. A short 10 minute walk after meals is an effective way of completing 150 minutes per week. Breaking up aerobic exercise in 10-minute blocks after meals has actually shown more benefits compared to completing it in one 30-minute bout.

Are there exercises to avoid if I have diabetes?

It’s important to steer clear of exercises that may pose injury risks or strain, such as heavy lifting or high-impact activities. If you have diabetic complications, further caution may be warranted. Consult with an exercise physiologist.

Can I stop taking diabetes medications if I complete exercise?

Exercise is a potent tool for controlling blood glucose levels and reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications, although, medication prescribed by a healthcare professional may still be necessary for some individuals. Ceasing diabetic medication can be a possibility, especially if you are eating the right foods. Consultation with your healthcare provider is crucial before modifying any medication and to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

Should I complete resistance training if I have type 1 diabetes?

Yes, resistance training is very beneficial for type 1 diabetes. Read our upcoming blog article regarding exercise and type 1 diabetes.

What time of the day should someone with type 2 diabetes complete exercise?

The time of day does not really matter. There is some evidence which shows that for type 2 diabetes, exercise in the afternoon/night may have some added benefits. For type 1 diabetes, it may be better to complete exercise in the morning due to risk of nocturnal-hypoglycemia. However, the best time to exercise is the time that is most suitable for you and your lifestyle. 

Written by Accredited Exercise Physiologist – Christopher Kondos

Christopher Kondos is an ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist with 6+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Christopher has completed a Sports & Exercise Science Degree and a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology.
– Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst -2022 (Received an Executive Dean’s Award for these studies)
– Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at Australian Catholic University, Strathfield – 2019
-Student Exercise Physiologist at Nepean Hospital (Cardiac Rehabilitation) 2021
– Approved SIRA Provider (No. 20963)
– ASCA Strength and Conditioning Level 1 accreditation – 2018

Christopher Kondos Sydney exercise Medicine


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