by Arleigh Aldrich
New studies conducted by Canadian researchers have found that those with type 1 diabetes may have an easier time managing their blood sugar levels if they lift weights before doing cardiovascular exercise.
Type 1 diabetes patients suffer from deficiencies in insulin, which the body needs to turn food into fuel. Without insulin, glucose from food remains in the blood and can cause harm to other organs in the body. Insulin can be regulated in type 1 diabetes patients through insulin injections or pumps. Only about 5% (1.3 million) of American diabetes patients suffer from type 1. Patients with type 2 diabetes account for the majority of diabetes patients in America. Those with type 2 produce insulin, however the body does not respond to it. Insulin must be injected directly into fat under the skin for the blood to absorb it.
Muscles utilize sugar fast in highly aerobic exercise, depleting blood sugar levels quicker than non-cardio workouts. What the experiment found was by lifting weights first, blood sugar levels remained above the minimum threshold for someone with type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, levels remained above the threshold for longer periods of time after the workout was completed.
Dr. Ronald Sigal is a lead author on the study and endocronologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. Sigal told Reuters Health, “It’s important to define the best way for people with type 1 diabetes to exercise so that blood sugar doesn’t drop too low, yet they can still reap all the benefits of aerobic exercise.”
Type 1 diabetes patients who aren’t careful during exercise are likely to suffer from low blood sugars, which can cause low coordination, unconsciousness or result in a diabetic coma.
The study consisted of 10 men and 12 women with type 1 diabetes who regularly lifted weights and did cardio prior to the experiment. Researchers conducted two, 1.5 hour workout sessions with 45 minutes of weights and 45 minutes of cardio, switching the order for each session. The time of day was set to conduct workouts at 5 p.m. in order to simulate the typical time of day one might exercise after work.
The range in which blood sugar levels are safe are between four and 10 millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L). Exercises were interrupted for the safety of participants if blood sugar levels dropped below 4.5 mmol/L. The study was published in the health journal Diabetes Care.
The results are promising, however “they may have limited practical value until more studies are done,” says Dr. Vivian Fonseca, chief of endocrinology at Tulane University Medical School.
In addition to being a small study, many variables are unaccounted for to be able to include a wider range of type 1 diabetes patients; diets outside of participants’ workouts were not included, patients not previously active before the study were not included and type 2 diabetes patients were not tested. Also, the participants were very young, average age being at 32 years old.