As of 2015, 30.3 million Americans suffered from diabetes. 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed every year. The diabetes applicant pool isn’t dwindling either. With more than 84 million Americans having prediabetes, the potential for a new diagnosis is huge.
For those 65 years old or older, the numbers seem to get worse. With 25% of those 65 years of age or older having diabetes. As the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, this is a major concern.
*Data provided by the American Diabetes Association*
The data begs two important questions:
1) How much of this could have been prevented?
- Speculation doesn’t really help us move forward. Let’s focus on the more important question.
2) Better yet, what could everyone do? What is something that those with diabetes, prediabetes, or non-diabetics do that will help prevent getting the diagnosis or improve the disease state? If we are talking exercise my vote is for weightlifting (although, doing both weightlifting and cardio is always best). The science convinced me, but it is these specific ways that weightlifting helps with diabetes that forced my hand to have to nominate it.
How weightlifting fights back against diabetes
Taking back [glycemic] control: insulin resistance, sensitivity and glucose levels
Simply put, lifting weights will help reduce your fasting glucose levels. And when it comes to overall glycemic control, weightlifting outperforms cardio.
This is because while you are lifting weights it signals for your muscles to take in glucose. This glucose comes from your bloodstream allowing your body to take the readily available excess glucose in your blood. This isn’t just an immediate benefit either. Over time of consistently training, your ability to control blood sugar levels normally also improves.
Also, it does wonders for reducing resistance and improving sensitivity to insulin. In fact, just a single workout can lead to improved sensitivity for the next day and have muscles absorbing more glucose for a week.
On the molecular level
What does weightlifting do to cause these changes?
Cleaning up the place
Well, first it leads to reduced amounts of Hba1c. This is just science talk for glucose that is attached to a blood cell. This is an indicator of what your average blood sugar levels have been over the previous months. Positive improvements in this measurement is crucially important for diabetics.
Getting the full picture
If your body can’t accurately understand what is happening then how could it provide appropriate responses? This is why it needs to get the full picture. Which, weightlifting does by increasing the amount of a molecule known as hSGLT3.
Imagine hSGLT3 as a thermometer that measures glucose levels and helps your body respond appropriately to those levels. If you measure your temperature with a thermometer and you have a fever, that will lead to a specific response. Maybe you realize you are sick, make your go-to sick food, take some acetaminophen, and rest. Now, what if your thermometer could only measure in multiples of 5, leaving pretty large gaps in accuracy? You would never really know the appropriate way to respond is because you could have a really bad fever or you may be perfectly fine.
If this same issue is occurring in regards to our blood sugar it can be dangerous. This is why weightlifting is crucial as it increases the levels of this molecule which is essentially the same thing as upgrading from the thermometer that measured in 5’s to an accurate digital thermometer. You get the full picture so your body can respond appropriately.
Turning the vacuum to the highest setting
Ever use a vacuum with weak suction? I have. It is frustrating. I mean, how many times am I really going to have to go roll back and forth over that piece of dust until it goes? Imagine you have little vacuums on the outside of your muscle and adipose cells. These vacuums only job is to suck up glucose (this is a good thing). And let’s give this vacuum a name, something like, glut4, because, well, that’s what this vacuum molecule is called. By hitting the weights it actually leads to an increase in density of glut4 in cells. Meaning your cell just upgraded from a weak and broken down vacuum to one of those fancy Dyson ones.
On top of this, weightlifting increases your muscle mass. Which means more cells with higher levels of glut4. All of which helps with keeping your blood sugar levels stable, bringing the levels into healthier ranges, and more capable of responding immediately and appropriately to spikes.
Say no to inflammatory molecules
Although not blood sugar related directly, reducing inflammation is always beneficial overall. Though, with diabetes, there are certain types of molecules that play a role in worsening the disease state.
Weightlifting is able to reduce the amounts of some of these inflammatory molecules which inherently improves the disease state and overall health. Additionally, hitting the weights boosts the amount of a molecule known as miR-146a. This little guy’s job is to actually regulate these inflammatory molecules as well as other important biological processes.
Lastly, there are two culprits out there that are wanted for some heinous crimes against your beta-cells. TGF-Beta 1 and interleukin-1 beta both play roles in stopping the creation of new beta-cells, damaging them, and even destroying them. If your beta-cells are destroyed, reduced in number, or not working well then your body will struggle to produce insulin in response to glucose spikes.
Lifting is like calling the cops on these bad guys as they were shown to decrease their levels. Allowing for beta-cells to grow and do their job well.
The science has spoken
The verdict is in. Weightlifting is a great weapon to use in the fight against diabetes, whether you are diagnosed, pre-diabetic, or non-diabetic. I mean, studies have shown that diabetics who begin lifting actually are able to reduce the dosage of their medications. Which is extremely powerful and beneficial.
Take back control and keep it with a healthy dosage of weightlifting.