The Exercise Solution for Blood Sugar, Belly Fat, and Pre-Diabetes


Sugar.You don’t have to eat like this to be challenged with blood sugar issues. Whether or not you have diabetes, have been told you are pre-diabetic, or simply want solutions to losing belly fat, you’ll want to read this article.

In fact, in the environment many of us grew up in (marshmallow stars, anyone?), we easily are or were pre-diabetic. If you are weight loss resistant or you’re having trouble with belly fat you’ve never had issues with before you can’t blame it all on your sex or stress hormones. Insulin is the hormone that teams up with others to be the real belly fat bully.

I want to share with you the resistance training advantage in beating belly fat and or diabetes. Even if you’re on insulin, the chance to reduce your meds and to feel better with resistance training is only good routine away. (see specifics below – not just any old routine will do)


It’s no secret that if you’re diabetic you should exercise. It can be tricky to begin if this is your first wake up call to exercise. The combination of meal timing, insulin, and exercise all need to be taken into consideration. Glucometers that make it simple to take immediate readings help. Even if you’ve never been told you’re pre-diabetic if you have any of the signs and symptoms below you might be. Invest in a $20 glucometer from your pharmacy and get clear on where you stand. Low and high blood sugar both are a problem you want to fix with diet and exercise.

  • Hungry within 1-2 hours after a meal (you should be easily able to go 3-4 hours)
  • Feeling sick if you miss a meal (hunger yes, but sickness, no)
  • Moody, depressed, anxious
  • Crashing several hours after a meal, commonly in the afternoon
  • Constant cravings and need to snack

Exercise For Blood Sugar Stabilization

Aerobic exercise has always been an exercise staple for diabetics. However, there are roadblocks to aerobic exercise for diabetics in many cases. Risk of foot ulcers and retinopathy can decrease options for those who are overweight. Move over aerobic exercise, resistance training is emerging as a better alternative.

Good Things Come to Those Who Contract

Every muscle contraction creates a response in the muscle that:

  1. increase transportation of glucose to muscle (instead of storage)
  2. create more insulin receptors (more places for insulin to land)
  3. increase activity of signaling and converting glucose to glycogen (where it can be used by muscles in the future)

All of these things happen during and after exercise. Resistance training increases glucose sensitivity up to 24 hours after. Training 2-3 times a week is optimal for blood sugar control since it helps more glucose move out of the blood and into the muscle.

Getting It Right

There’s a best way to perform resistance training for blood sugar control. Is someone who uses strength training at all better off than someone who doesn’t strength train? Yes. If you were taking medication however, and you took “some” but not necessarily the optimal dosage recommended, would you expect it to do the same good? No. So it is with exercise if you’re using as we physiologists refer to it as an “exercise prescription.” You need the right one for the right now reasons you’re doing it if you want the right results.

You may love body weight exercises. They aren’t going to do the trick here.

You may love your Pilates class with the reformer that provides resistance. It’s not going to have the impact on blood sugar levels you want and need.

A large part of the reason is this: overload. If you’re doing exercises for all the major muscles groups in your body it’s very hard to reach overload with body weight alone. If I asked you to squat to fatigue, you may not want to but you could probably do that 200 times if your knees allowed it.

Push-ups might be another story. You could argue with me that you can’t do more than 10-15 of those, if that. But can you even pull up? Can you find an exercise for all your major muscle groups – at least 7 of them – such that you fatigue between 10 and 15 repetitions? It would be very difficult.

You can certainly start with body weight. You can add tubing or bands to increase resistance. You can add suspension tools and change body position to increase resistance. These are all viable options. The easiest and most convenient way to effectively get the job done with the least amount of risk of injury however is resistance training using machines, free weights, and or cables.


Here’s the lowdown on stabilizing blood sugar levels with strength training:

  • Focus on major muscle group exercises: squats, lunges, chest press, pull downs, rows, shoulder press, deadlifts, and combination movements using two of these exercises together.
  • Build up to doing 21 sets during a workout (3 sets of 7 exercises)
  • Use a 10-to-15-repetition range (correlates to 60-80% of 1-rep max)
  • Lift 2-3 times a week

If you do have diabetes, or you have a history of not feeling well during or after exercise, check blood sugar levels before and after exercise as well as before and after meals. If you’re taking medications, coordinate your meal, exercise, and medication timing together with your physician and or a Medical Exercise Specialist with experience working with diabetics or blood sugar control-focused clients.

For at-home exercise videos of full body workouts lasting 45-60 minutes click here.

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