Marta Montenegro: Battle Insulin Resistance with the Right Exercise

With the outgoing increase intake in calories and sugar, more people are at risk of developing insulin resistance (IR), thus type 2 diabetes (T2D).

“Persons with IR are typically asymptomatic and may demonstrate normal blood glucose. However, insulin levels will be significantly higher in IR,” explains the “Exercise and Insulin Resistance” article by Lance Bollinger, MA, CES, CSCS and Tom LaFontaine Ph.D., ACSM-RCEP, published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Breaking a sweat not only makes you look good, but also can be one of the most cost-effective ways to battle IR. Exercise cells become resistant to the uptake of glucose in the presence of insulin. This helps prevent T2D, which is characterized by high blood glucose and insulin levels and insulin resistance. Coupled with dietary changes, the right type of exercise can really make a difference.

Max out your exercise program

Bollinger and LaFontaine’s article shows that exercise helps by a) improving insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle and glucose uptake, b) preserving pancreatic B cell function, which is responsible for making insulin, c) reducing pharmacological therapy and d) managing associated diseases.

Exercise will no doubt exert a positive impact on glucose and insulin levels whether you have IR, T2D or not.  By keeping this simple sugar and hormone in balance, weight management and certain disease prevention can be achieved.

To maximize the benefits of your workout, it’s important that you know the type of exercise (cardio or/and weights), intensity and frequency.

a)    How much should I workout?

Aim for 2.5 hours of exercise per week to prevent T2D and 4-7 hours per week to achieve a healthy weight. If you are in a rush, you can split the total time into shorter sessions (10-20 minutes). After exercise, glucose uptake remains elevated for several hours so breaking out the sessions into shorter ones can help to keep insulin in control through the day.

However, insulin sensitivity reverses really fast after cessation of exercise so you should not separate exercise sessions by more than 48 hours.

b)   How should I do my cardio?

Studies show that moderate-intensity seems to be more effective than low and high intensity when it comes to maintaining the insulin cell function.

c)    Should I lift weights?

75 percent to 90 percent of the glucose uptake is due to the skeletal muscle. So if you want to maintain a normal blood glucose, you better lift weights.  Thus, if you are a beginner, start with one set per exercise for 12-15 reps and progress to the sets and reps shown in this sample routine. The exercises can be done using either free weights and/or machines.  Hit the weights, three times per week.

Squat or leg press (2-3 sets, 10-12 reps)

Chest press (2-3 sets, 10-12 reps)

Pulldown (2-3 sets, 10-12 reps)

Leg extension (1 set, 8-10 reps)

Leg curl (1 set, 8-10 reps)

Shoulder press (2-3 set, 10-12 reps)

Seated row (2-3 sets, 10-12 reps)

Lunge or step up (1-2 sets, 8-10 reps)

Bicep curl (1 set, 8-10 reps)

Tricep extension (1 set, 8-10 reps)

Calf raise (1-2 sets, 10-12 reps)

Back extension (1-2 sets, 12-15 reps)

Abdominal crunch (2-3 sets, 12-15 reps)

d)   Should I do cardio and/or weights?

Studies show that doing both cardio and weights was more effective for glucose control than either one alone. However, the total exercise time must be greater than either one alone. In other words, you don’t want to decrease either one to allow time for the other activity. It has to all add up.

If you don’t want to be part of the 79 million of Americans who have pre-diabetes, make exercise one of your best weapons to look good and to be healthier. Keep in mind that dietary changes are crucial to see a lifetime of results. Meanwhile, lace up your sneakers and drink plenty of water. A French study shows that people who drink more water (at least 17 ounces/ per day) were 28 percent less prone to develop high glucose level.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University.  Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, combines fitness, nutrition and health  tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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