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Lift weights for diabetes protection

If you can’t do aerobics, weights can aid prevention.

You’ve probably heard that exercise helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. But you may assume that means you need to perform aerobic exercise that leads to weight loss, and that may seem daunting. Now a study from Harvard and the University of Southern Denmark says that men who do weight training instead can still significantly cut their diabetes risk. “It’s great news for people who may not be able to do aerobic activity,” says Dr. Eric Rimm, one of the authors of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

How it works

Your body relies on a basic fuel called glucose, which comes from the starches and sugars you eat. A hormone called insulin delivers the glucose from your blood to the cells of your body. But if you don’t produce enough insulin or if your cells ignore the insulin, you may develop a condition called type 2 diabetes.

The biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight. Aerobic activity burns large amounts of energy, which greatly helps achieve weight loss and lower diabetes risk. Indeed, researchers found that men who did 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or tennis—reduced their diabetes risk by 52%. This result was in line with past studies.

But the new study also found that men who did 150 minutes of weight training per week saw a 34% risk reduction, regardless of whether they performed aerobic exercises. “Your muscles use glucose. By creating more muscle that needs more glucose when you exercise, you reduce glucose levels remaining in the blood,” explains Dr. Rimm.

Dr. Rimm says aerobic exercise and weight training are even more effective when combined, providing a risk reduction of up to 59%. “Our findings don’t give people an out to just do one or the other. If you can do both, it’s better. But if you can’t do aerobics, then just doing weight training is much better than doing nothing at all,” he says.

Weight training

If you’d like to begin a weight training program or add weight training to your exercise routine, speak to your doctor first, since the activity will challenge your heart. Weight training also comes with the risk of injuring muscles and tendons, if not done properly.

The study didn’t look at the types of exercises that are effective at building muscle, but they generally fall into three categories: lifting weights on machines, lifting free weights such as dumbbells, and using an elastic band for resistance training. A physical therapist or trainer can help you decide which exercises are right for your body and current health.

Dr. Rimm says it’s not necessary to focus on the number of minutes of weight training to take on each week. “There’s no specific combination of minutes,” he says. “You don’t have to do 150 minutes a week, although that’s a good target. Anything will help. In terms of the biology, building some muscle is better than none at all because that will lower your blood glucose levels. So modest amounts of weight lifting will help retain lean muscle mass.”

Forward fly

Forward fly

Works the shoulders and upper back

Sit in a chair holding weights 12 inches in front of your chest. Keep your elbows up, with your palms facing each other. Lean forward slightly, keeping your back straight.

Pull the weights apart while trying to bring your shoulder blades as close together as possible. Let the movement pull your elbows back as far as possible. Pause. Return to starting position.

Do eight to 12 repetitions. Rest and repeat the set.

Biceps curl

Biceps curl

Works the front upper arm muscles

Sit in a chair. Hold weights down at your sides with your palms inward.

Slowly bend one elbow, lifting the weight toward your upper chest. As you lift, keep your elbow close to your side and rotate your palm so it faces your shoulder. Pause. Slowly lower your arm, rotating it back again so you finish with your palm facing your thighs.

Do eight to 12 repetitions. Repeat with your other arm. Rest and repeat the sets.

Exercise illustrations: Matthew Holt

Overhead press

Overhead press

Works shoulders, upper back, and upper arms

Stand with your feet slightly apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height (your elbows should be bent and the weights should be about six inches from your body). Hold the weights so your palms are facing forward.

Slowly lift the weights straight up until your arms are fully extended. Pause. Slowly lower the dumbbells to shoulder level.

Do eight to 12 repetitions. Rest and repeat the set.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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