With the colder, shorter days and an array of rich, tempting holiday foods always around, this can make maintaining a regular exercise schedule a bigger challenge during the holidays. Many of us become susceptible to gaining a few extra pounds due to all of the extra calories combined with lower activity levels. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule that includes daily resistance exercise will help to keep any holiday weight gain at a minimum, while also helping us to maintain good blood sugar levels, a very important and at times over looked topic.
Why Daily Resistance Exercise
The link between healthy muscle levels and optimal health is strong. The closest thing to the “fountain of youth” is maintaining a healthy percentage of muscle on your body throughout all stages of life. Not only does it protect your cardiovascular health, help provide healthy blood pressure readings, help prevent injuries and reduce cancer risk and chronic pain, but it’s also critical for maintaining your metabolic health and is necessary for proper blood sugar control.
The Importance of Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Type II diabetes is a serious matter as it currently affects 30.3 million people or 9.4% of U.S. adults, according to the CDC. Of those adults, 23.8% or one quarter (7.2 million people) didn’t report they had diabetes or were not aware they were diabetic. The total estimated cost for diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012 was $245 billion, making the actual number much higher if we include the undiagnosed.
Diabetes has terrible consequences including blindness and limb amputations. Monitoring your blood sugar levels periodically while eating a healthy diet that is low in refined sugars are ways to prevent the onset of high blood sugar levels.
Resistance exercise is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The more muscle is on your body, the more sensitive or receptive your tissues become to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that is released by your pancreas to direct excess sugar (glucose) which enters your blood from food towards your liver and muscle tissues for use and storage.
Resistance exercise increases the total amount of muscle tissue which increases the number of receptor sites willing to take in the glucose from the blood. Issues arise when these receptor sites no longer accept insulin and the glucose has nowhere to go but to stay in your blood which will increase your blood sugar levels. This is called insulin resistance and can be a precursor to Type II Diabetes. Resistance exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by 23% in one study whereas no change in insulin sensitivity occurred in the group that did aerobic endurance exercise.
Hemoglobin A1C levels measure the average level of sugar in your blood over the past 2-3 months and are used to test for pre-diabetic and diabetic blood sugar levels. New research is showing that resistance exercise has a greater effect on reducing A1C levels than aerobic exercise. This study showed that subjects who performed three months of moderate-intensity resistance exercise increased lean muscle mass measurements which was correlated with a reduction in hemoglobin A1C levels from 8.8% to 8.2% while aerobic exercise did not show the same degree of long term effect on A1C levels.
Lifestyle and genetic factors greatly determine whether a person develops diabetes. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, being overweight or obese, especially around the midsection, smoking, being inactive and consuming a diet rich in sweet and processed foods all place you at higher risk of becoming prediabetic or diabetic. Resistance exercise also helps to prevent weight gain which can be a contributing factor to reduced insulin sensitivity.
So remember when that plate of cookies comes around to use moderation and enjoy a cookie or two, but to not polish off the entire plate. Incorporating daily resistance exercise can help prevent any unhealthy changes in your blood sugar levels and help you to maintain your health and fitness during the holidays.
Also, if you’d like to find out your own glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels, as well as many other values including total cholesterol levels, there are websites such as WellnessFX.com avaliable which require a simple blood test.
Daily resistance exercise is the best present you could give yourself this holiday season to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent extra weight gain.