lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes

How Lifting Weights Lowers the Risk of Diabetes


As we get older, our energy levels can decrease. Add to that stress from our ever-so-busy daily lives and it becomes an almost impossible task to get to the gym. I’ve been a runner for over a decade now and, oh, how I miss the stamina and endurance I had in my 20’s. No matter how hard I’ve tried to avoid it, age has caught up to me. Week after week, I have to drag myself to finish running that last half-mile. Knowing that my mother is pre-diabetic and all her siblings are diabetic, I cannot just sit back and wait for it to catch up with me! I run not because it is supposed to be good for me, but because it always feels good to know that my HDL cholesterol levels are above average post yearly physicals.

Since I’m continuing to get older, I knew it was time to focus on other ways to increase my physical activity. Maybe I could outsmart my body to get the same effects from physical activity without the needed endurance? But how? Like any other millennial would do, I turned to the Internet. As it turns out, lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes. With this new information in hand, I hired a personal trainer to begin incorporating strength training into my fitness routine.

I learned some interesting facts about weight lifting while conducting my research. We lose 3-5% of our muscle on average every decade starting at the age of 301. Evidence has shown muscle strength to be inversely related to metabolic syndrome2, which makes sense since skeletal muscle mass is the primary site of glucose and triglyceride disposal3. Accumulation of lipids within the muscle cell due to dysregulation of fatty acid metabolism interferes with insulin signaling4, ultimately leading to insulin resistance5.

This process map shows how a decrease in muscle mass can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes therefore demonstrating how lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes.

At the same time, insulin’s ability to stimulate glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) translocation decreases, resulting in reduced GLUT4 transporters at the plasma membrane6. Insulin signals GLUT4 to either spend or store glucose within the body. By increasing muscle mass, we are not only increasing storage capacity for excess glucose, but also increasing efficiency of excess glucose storage7. Therefore, it becomes evident that lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes.

So, here I am, continuing to lift kettle balls and stretching resistance bands per my trainer’s instructions. Will it give me the same adrenaline rush as running? Nope, and I have come to accept that.  However, it is reassuring to know that lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes if, in fact, I’m fated to have this dreadful and chronic condition.


  1.  Nair. (1995). Muscle protein turnover: Methodological issues and the effect of aging. The Journals of Gerontology, 50A, 107-114.
  2. Jurca et al. (2005). Association of muscular strength with incidence of metabolic syndrome in men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(11), 1849-55.
  3. Strasser & Pesta. (2013). Resistance training for diabetes prevention and therapy: Experimental findings and molecular mechanisms. BioMed Research International, Article ID 805217, 1-8.
  4. Bonen et al. (2004). Triacylglycerol accumulation in human obesity and type 2 diabetes is associated with increased rates of skeletal muscle fatty acid transport increased sarcolemmal FAT/CD36. FASEB Journal, 18(11), 1144-46.
  5. Shulman. (2000). Cellular mechanisms of insulin resistance. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 106(2), 171-76.
  6. Zierath & Wallberg-Henriksson. (2002). From receptor to effector: Insulin signal transduction in skeletal muscle from type II diabetic patients. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 967, 120-134.
  7. Nadolsky. (2013). Pump Iron, Prevent Diabetes. Arnold Schwarzenegger.