The Borgs in the "Star Trek" fictional universe may have told you that "resistance is futile." But I'm here to tell you that it's not true. In fact, resistance can be good for your health and weight and can go a long way toward helping you to control your diabetes.
Specifically, what I mean is resistance training. It goes by a couple of other names too: strength training and anaerobic exercise. The latter means "without oxygen." Whatever you call it, this type of exercise builds and maintains lean muscle mass.
Some people think that you've got to have special equipment, some knowledge of exercise techniques, and even personal instruction to do resistance training. Those are all good ideas as you get into it. But you certainly can get started without even going to a gym.
"You can do it in your home," says Dr. Karl Knopf, a 54-year-old author and professor of adaptive physical education at Foothill Community College in Los Altos, California. He is also the founder and president of the Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association, a training and accreditation program.
"Lift a rock or a can of beans," he told Kristi Essick, who interviewed him for the February 3 issue of The Wall Street Journal. . It's all about repetitions. He says that to build strength it's best to start with six repetitions and when you can do that many without much strain build up to 15 repetitions.
I often lift 5-pound weights when I watch television. I know that it's not much, but it's a start. Push-ups, sit-ups, and squats are examples of resistance training exercises that don't require any equipment.
Still, you have to be careful when you start resistance training. "High-resistance exercise using weights may be acceptable for young individuals with diabetes, but not for older individuals or those with long-standing diabetes," the American Diabetes Association cautions in its position statement on "Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes.". "Moderate weight training programs that utilize light weights and high repetitions can be used for maintaining or enhancing upper body strength in nearly all patients with diabetes."
Until now, however, we had no solid evidence that resistance training helps people with type 2 diabetes. But a new meta-analysis and a comprehensive review of the literature clearly show that it does.
Both articles appeared in recent issues of Diabetes Care, the ADA's premier professional journal. First, came the review, "Resistance Training and Type 2 Diabetes," by Neil Eves and Ronald Plotnikoff in August 2006.
Several studies that Eves and Plotnikoff reviewed showed that resistance training enhances our sensitivity to insulin. The largest published study in this area showed that even resistance training of low to moderate intensity if performed for a year or more improved not only blood glucose levels but also cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.
The meta-analysis looked at the effect of three forms of exercise - resistance training, aerobic exercise, and a combination of the two. The report by Neil Snowling and Will Hopkins, "Effects of Different Modes of Exercise Training on Glucose Control and Risk Factors for Complications in Type 2 Diabetic Patients," came out in November 2006.