If you are a novice at resistance work, you can start out with lighter weights or more flexible resistance bands that enable you to complete one or two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions on each exercise, but use enough weight or resistance to feel fatigued by the end of the last set. Although focusing on more reps using lower weights increases muscular endurance, lifting a greater resistance for fewer reps generally produces greater gains in muscular strength and size, which is your ultimate goal—that is, to have more muscle mass that will require extra calories even at rest, increase your resting metabolism, and improve your insulin action.
There is no right or wrong way to resistance train. You can vary between easy days, when you do more reps with lighter weights, and hard days, when you lift heavier weights fewer times. The only resistance-training principles that you absolutely need to follow are to work a particular area of your body (i.e., upper body) no more frequently than every other day and to train muscles with opposite actions on a joint equally, such as the biceps and triceps muscles of your upper arm or the quadriceps and hamstring muscles of your thigh. The last point to keep in mind is that if you stop overloading your muscles, your strength gains will reach a plateau or start to reverse, so you'll have to increase the weight or resistance. If you resistance train correctly, your workouts will never feel any easier, but you'll know that you're getting stronger because you can lift more weight.
The Impact on Your Blood Glucose
One last point to keep in mind is that although moderate aerobic workouts usually cause your blood sugars to decrease while you're doing them, anaerobic or other intense work can cause them to rise instead due to an exaggerated release of glucose-raising hormones. However, even if a workout raises your blood glucose level temporarily, over a longer period of time (2-3 hours), the residual effects of the exercise will bring your blood sugar back down while replacing the carbs in your muscles. Intense work uses up muscle glycogen faster, which can help keep your insulin action higher over the following day or two.
My favorite way to approach fitness is simply to do a variety of activities, including both aerobic and anaerobic ones on the same or different days. Doing so allows you to get the benefits of both types of training and surely will make your diabetes management and fitness levels better in the long run.
If you need tips for getting started on an exercise program, check out my book entitled The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan. For people with any type of diabetes who are already more active, you will benefit more from Diabetic Athlete's Handbook. For other tips on exercise, fitness, diabetes, nutrition, and more, please visit my Web site and exercise blog at www.shericolberg.com.
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NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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