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Strength Training in Middle Age for Diabetes Prevention

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Strength Training in Middle Age for Diabetes Prevention

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal, and is bad news.   Read about it on the American Diabetes Association Website.  Unless managed diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

In the 45–64 age bracket (read middle age) 13.4 million USA citizens had diabetes, which is approximately 16.2% of this age group, and the incidence of diabetes is growing rapidly.  892,000 new cases of diabetes middle aged were identified in 2012, roughly 12 per 1000 people (ref.  3).

Diabetes may also be underreported as a cause of death. Studies have found that only about 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate (and about 10% to 15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death).


Two Main Types of Diabetes

Type 1:

The appearance of Type 1 diabetes is suspected to follow exposure to an "environmental trigger," such as an unidentified virus, stimulating an immune attack against the beta cells of the pancreas (that produce insulin) in some genetically predisposed people.


Type 2:

Type 2 diabetes is normally developed later in life being more common in people over the age of 45.  Other risk factors are obesity, and family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity.  Type 2 diabetes can be effectively managed and even prevented  with life style changes.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)  study demonstrated that lifestyle modification focusing on:

  • weight loss,
  • increased physical activity,
  • and dietary modification

 reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58%, as compared to the 31% among individuals taking diabetes medication such as metformin.


How Does Exercise Help?

Research studies have found that moderate weight loss and exercise can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes among adults at high-risk of diabetes.  Both Aerobic Exercise and Strength Training have proven to be effective in warding off Type 2 diabetes.  Exercise is strongly recommended are part of a lifestyle modification to better manage diabetes, by major advisory groups such as :

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  which recommends both Aerobic and Srength Training to help you control blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure, as well as raise your “good” cholesterol and lower your “bad” cholesterol.  CDC currently recommends moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the weeks.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that individuals with diabetes perform at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity Aerobic Training per week.  However Strength Training is one alternative to Aerobic Training that can be safe and effective for older adults. The ADA encourages individuals with type 2 diabetes to perform resistance exercise three times a week .


But What Type of Exercise is Best?

Several studies (ref. 1,2) have turned up results showing Strength Training to be most effective form of exercise in managing diabetes.  Feel free to read the papers yourself, but they do contain a lot of medical spiel.  Key conclusions are:

Improvements in glucose uptake, and reduced diabetes risk due to beneficial effects of Strength Training, more than was achieved by Aerobic Exercise alone.

  • Intensity of Strength Training appears to influence the extent of improvement in these outcomes, with high intensity Strength Training (defined as using training loads above 75% one-repetition maximum) producing the greatest improvements in diabetes-related measures.
  • All major muscle groups should be exercised.
  • Weight-training machine or free weights protocol reported improvements in diabetes-related measures, whereas the strength training intervention utilizing elastic resistance bands did not.
  • Strength Training was also shown to reduce abdominal fat, including visceral fat (fat in the abdominal cavity) among individuals with diabetes, although this may not show as significant weight loss.


The Take Away

  1. The onset of diabetes type 2 is a major health concern for people in middle age, with over 16% of this age group having diabetes.
  2. The importance of exercise in managing of Type 2 diabetes, or even preventing the onset, cannot be overstated.
  3. Strong evidence that Strength Training is more beneficial in managing/ preventing Type 2 diabetes than Aerobic Training, but only if done with moderate to high intensity.
  4. If you are middle aged, unfit, and overweight particularly if you are carrying a lot of fat around your middle, then now might be the time to look at taking up a regular exercise program. 
  5. Why not try Strength Training; it’s not just for bodybuilders!
  6. Strength Training a great activity for busy men balancing a full work and family life, and is proven to be very effective in managing or preventing diabetes.  




  1. Aging, Resistance Training, and Diabetes Prevention”. Journal of Aging Research   2010
  2. The Relative Benefits of Endurance and Strength Training on the Metabolic Factors and Muscle Function of People With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”. 2005
  3. American Diabetes Association


Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions. 



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