The Role of Muscle Mass in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is classified broadly into type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 accounts for approximately 5-10% of cases with Type 2 diabetes accounting for 90-95%. Type 2 is diagnosed normally during adulthood and is generally associated with insulin resistance and eventually loss of insulin secretion. This means the glucose in our blood is no longer being adequately controlled by insulin which can lead to heart, eye, kidney and nerve problems.

Exercise is imperative for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes and the role of resistance training plays an integral part. When partaking in resistance exercises, we create an energy need within the muscle which allows blood glucose to enter the muscle and leave the bloodstream which reduces our blood glucose levels. More importantly, it also allows us to build up GLUT 4 receptors. These are transporters that are located in muscles that are activated during exercise. They are responsible for up taking glucose into the muscles to be used for energy. By building up muscle mass and GLUT 4 receptors through exercise, diabetics will have a better ability to reduce their blood glucose levels. This leads to better long-term control and improves insulin resistance, blood pressure, reduces fat mass and increases strength. Resistance training can also reduce the stress hormone cortisol which has also been linked to insulin resistance.

The exercise recommendations for type 2 diabetics are at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic and resistance training. It is recommended that exercise is performed daily due to enhanced insulin action. Performing resistance training before aerobic exercise, when combined in one session, will also reduce the likelihood of postexercise hypoglycemia.

Lifestyle changes that focus on exercise and dietary interventions are recommended for weight loss in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. If you are looking for an individualised programme, contact an accredited exercise physiologist.

Taylor Downes

Exercise Physiologist (Student)

B.Sc. Sport & Exercise, B.Ed. Human Movement (ESSAM)


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