Lift weights to reverse diabetes


Athletics and vanity aside there are many important reasons for pumping iron to build muscle.

Sure, lifting weights is must if you are looking to change your body shape, but did you know that it is also a must if you are a diabetic and want to decrease your risk of health complications?

Michael Tilders was a prime candidate for diabetes. His dedication to resistance exercise 2-3 times a week changed all that.

Yep, it is true. Performing resistance exercise decreases your odds of experiencing health complications if you are a type 2 diabetic.

But wait, it gets even more interesting. Resistance exercise doesn’t just improve health; studies have shown that not performing resistance exercise will actually makes your health worse!

Take a look…

Researchers investigated the effects that resistance exercise alone, cardiovascular exercise alone, the combination of the two, and placebo (just stretching) had on HbA1c in type 2 diabetics.

HbA1c is a measure of a person’s average blood sugar over weeks or months and represents hemoglobin that has ‘joined with’ glucose.

This is different from the typical blood sugar measurement that diabetics typically take several times each day as that gives a measure of blood glucose at that time point.

The HbA1c measurement indicates how at risk someone is of developing diabetes related complications including cardiovascular disease.

The typical measure for folks without diabetes is between 4 and 5.6% while a reading between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate increased risk of diabetes and anything over 6.5% indicates diabetes.

Generally speaking for every 1% increase in HbA1c a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases by 20-30% and their risk of developing microvascular disease increases by 37%.

Basically, things get worse in a hurry with each 1% increase in HbA1c.

Ok, back to the study…

Lots of interesting things happened during this 9 month study.

Researchers found that folks who performed resistance exercise 3 times each week, folks who performed cardio for a total of 2.5 hours each week, and the group that lifted weights and did cardio (matched to expend as much energy as either of the other groups) each week all saw initial improvements in their HbA1c markers.

However, the only group to experience continued improvement and maintenance of improvement in HbA1c was the combination group (resistance and cardio).

Only the groups that performed resistance exercise saw a drop in fat mass. Sorry cardio bunnies.

But here is the real kicker- the control group- the one that followed standard treatment of care actually got worse!!!

So, they didn’t just show that resistance training was better than doing nothing, or that the combination of resistance training and cardio was better than just cardio, they showed that following the typical care given to type 2 diabetics actually results in worsening of disease markers.

In fact, the increase seen in HbA1c measures of the control group was so large that researchers were ordered to stop that portion of their study.

That’s right, if you have diabetes and follow the standard treatment of care given you will actually see a pretty rapid decline in your health. This decline is so great, as demonstrated in this study, that it is almost unethical for medical professionals to fail to recommend resistance training exercise as part of treatment.

Conversely, resistance exercise is shown not only to help manage type-2 diabetes, it can also improve blood glucose control to reduce the requirement for medication tremendously. Read more about how to improve and even reverse type-2 diabetes with exercise here.

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Resistance Training for Glycemic Control, Muscular Strength, and Lean Body Mass in Old Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Meta-Analysis. Lee J, Kim D, Kim C. Diabetes Ther. 2017 Jun;8(3):459-473.

Church, T. Blair, S. Cocreham, S. Johannsen, et al. Effects of Aerobic and Resistance Training on Hemoglobin A1c Levels in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA. 2010 Nov 24:304(20):2253-2262.

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