Daily activity may be the best medicine for people who have or are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to a 2014 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12.3% of U.S. adults have diabetes. The majority of them have Type 2 diabetes, a condition where your blood sugar, or blood glucose, levels are too high as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity.
“With Type 2 diabetes, your body can no longer make or use insulin, the hormone which helps the body regulate glucose levels,” says Dr. Sheri Colberg, a professor of human movement sciences at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who specializes in diabetes and exercise research. “Normally insulin helps the body use glucose for energy. When this doesn’t happen, glucose ends up being stored in places like the abdomen, liver, pancreas.”
Dr. Colberg says a combination of diet and increased physical activity can help prevent Type 2 diabetes, and even reverse the disease. Cardio and strength workouts are both important, she says; if there’s only time for one, choose resistance training.
“We lose muscle mass as we age,” she says. “It’s important to keep muscle fibers strong and active. Most of us are on our feet or walk around at least some part of the day, but how often do we jump, hop, sprint or really engage our muscles?”
Dr. Colbeg suggests 30 minutes of strength training a few days a week. “Body weight exercises like plank or lunges work just as well as weights,” she says.
For those unsure if they are at risk for diabetes, Dr. Colberg says ask your doctor for an A1C blood test, which is used to diagnose diabetes and prediabetes, the condition in which blood glucose levels are elevated but that isn’t yet full-blown disease.