If You Have Diabetes or Prediabetes, You Need Strength Training. Here’s Why

If You Have Diabetes or Prediabetes, You Need Strength Training. Here’s Why

(Last Updated On: August 2, 2020)

Diabetes and strength training

Everyone needs to strength train, regardless of age or health status, but if you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, it’s even more important to work your muscles against resistance, whether it be bodyweight exercises, weights, or resistance bands. With the growing number of people who have prediabetes and diabetes, many of whom don’t know it, getting the word out about strength training is vital. Here’s why strength training is a must if you have prediabetes or diabetes.

Building Muscle Can Improve Your Metabolic Health

When you have prediabetes, your fasting blood sugar level is higher than someone who is metabolically healthy. However, fasting blood sugar levels aren’t as high as those of a diabetic. Prediabetes is a sign you’re not metabolically healthy and suffer from insulin resistance. Without lifestyle changes, your blood glucose levels will gradually rise over time to the point that you reach the level of a diabetic.

A study found that 15 to 30% of people with prediabetes will become diabetic over a 5-year period without lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, many health care providers aren’t proactive enough about treating patients with prediabetes. One study found that fewer than 25% of people with prediabetes were advised by their doctor to make lifestyle changes.

Losing weight is the best way to get your glucose levels down to a healthier range. However, strength training will help you reach your goals too. Studies show that increasing muscle mass by only 10% improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance by a factor of 11%.

How does strength training help? Working your muscles against resistance and building muscle helps muscle cells take up glucose in a more efficient manner. That’s important for blood sugar control and metabolic health. The key is to be consistent about training. Aerobic exercise also helps with blood glucose control. Plus, both strength training and aerobic workouts improve body composition and help with weight loss and weight loss is one of the most important things you can do to improve blood sugar control. Diabetics Lose Muscle Faster than People with Normal Blood Sugar

Everyone starts to lose muscle mass after the age of 30, but diabetics lose muscle faster than people with normal blood sugar levels, especially in the lower body. Scientists now think they know why. Researchers at the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine found that two key proteins called KLF15 and WWP1 contribute to muscle loss in people with diabetes. People with diabetes lose muscle more quickly and that further worsens blood sugar control. It’s a vicious cycle you can break through consistent strength training.

Research also shows that muscles fatigue more easily in people with type 2 diabetes. Plus, type 2 diabetics have reduced muscle strength even after controlling for other factors that affect muscle strength. People who have type 2 diabetes usually have too much body fat and too little muscle. Strength training helps correct this imbalance by aiding in fat loss and by boosting muscle size. The age-related loss of muscle and rise in body fat is called sarcopenia and leads to frailty and a higher risk of falls and injuries.

The Risk of Bone Fractures is Higher in People with Type 2 Diabetes

Another age-related problem that women worry about is osteoporosis and bone fractures. A large study of older women found that type 2 diabetics have a higher risk of fractures of the hip, leg, and humerus relative to non-diabetics. Of these, a hip fracture is the most serious. In fact, up to half of all people who fracture a hip are left with some degree of disability. The odds of developing a hip fracture for women over a lifetime is quite high! Statistics show that one in three will fracture a hip at some point. In addition, the risk of dying within a year of a hip fracture is between 14% and 58%.

Plus, the complications of diabetes, such as neuropathy (nerve damage) and retinopathy (diabetic involvement of the retina of the eye) increase the risk of falling and sustaining a fracture. Plus, if you sustain a fracture with diabetes, the fracture will heal at a slower rate due to changes in bone cells called osteoblasts that rebuild bone. Plus, diabetics are more prone to oxidative stress and inflammation that also makes it harder for fractures to heal. So, you’re at higher risk of getting osteoporosis if you have diabetes and you’re also at greater risk of falling if you develop diabetes complications.

What can you do to prevent bone fractures? Working your body against resistance helps boost bone density. Studies show that working muscles against heavy resistance stimulates bone cells called osteoblasts to lay down new bone tissue. So, strength training doesn’t just build muscle, it boosts bone density too. In fact, muscle and bone aging are closely related and they both respond to strength training. Make sure you’re strength training not just for muscle health but for the health of your bones too.

The Bottom Line

Now you know why strength training is essential if you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Building muscle reduces age-related bone and muscle loss and places you at a lower risk of developing a bone fracture and sarcopenia. In addition, strength training and building muscle improves insulin sensitivity and lower your blood sugar level. In fact, some people can reverse type 2 diabetes if they lose weight shortly after diagnosis. The odds of improving your metabolic health are even higher if you have prediabetes. Lifestyle changes matter! Make sure you’re staying physically active and training your muscles against resistance too.



  • Diabetes Self-Management. “What is Muscle Mass?”
  • Science Daily. “How diabetes causes muscle loss”
  • J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Jan;86(1):32-8. doi: 10.1210/jcem.86.1.7139.
  • Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2015 Oct; 13(5): 327–335. doi: 10.1007/s11914-015-0286-8.
  • Harvard Health Publishing. “Strength training builds more than muscles”
  • Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Dec; 33(4): 435–444.Published online 2018 Nov 30. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435.
  • J Cell Physiol. 2015 Nov;230(11):2618-25. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25001.
  • Geriatr Orthop Surg Rehabil. 2010 Sep; 1(1): 6–14. doi: 10.1177/2151458510378105.


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Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program

All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts
Upper Body Workouts

2 thoughts on “If You Have Diabetes or Prediabetes, You Need Strength Training. Here’s Why

  1. Strength training really does work. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes about 5 years ago and now have normal blood sugars, with no medications. As well as reducing my carb intake I started strength training and building muscle as well as some low impact cardio. If you are regularly strength training then you are regularly depleting the muscle cells of glucose making room for more to be stored. This makes your whole glucose/insulin system work better which increases your metabolism.

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