The amount of skeletal muscle in the body. The ratio of a person’s muscle mass to the total body weight is called the skeletal muscle index. In response to insulin, skeletal muscle uses glucose in the bloodstream for energy, and research has shown that for every 10% increase in the skeletal muscle index, there is an 11% reduction in insulin resistance (a condition in which more insulin is needed to control blood glucose levels) and a 12% reduction in the risk of prediabetes (a borderline condition in which a person’s blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic).
People tend to lose muscle mass as they age, and those with diabetes tend to lose muscle mass faster than nondiabetic individuals of the same age. Fortunately, strength exercises can increase muscle mass and improve blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
In addition to regular aerobic exercise, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends regular strength training at least two times a week for people with diabetes. According to ADA, strength training activities include using free weights or weight machines at a fitness facility, using resistance bands, lifting light objects in the home such as canned goods and water bottles and engaging in exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats.
Want to learn more about using exercise to help manage diabetes? Read “Increasing Insulin Sensitivity,” “Making Exercise More Fun,” and “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals.”