Practically, all kinds of exercise can benefit weight management and diabetes, in one way or other, said sports medicine specialist Benedict Tan.
Cardiovascular training helps to burn calories and mobilise blood sugar into the muscles.
Strength training transports blood glucose into the muscles, thereby reducing one’s blood sugar levels while increasing muscle mass and metabolic rate.
Strength and balance training also reduces the risk of falls in diabetics with peripheral neuropathy, a long-term complication of diabetes that can cause tingling, pain or loss of sensation in the toes, feet and fingers.
To lose weight, one must use more calories than one consumes. “When one does only one form of exercise, one becomes more efficient in that activity and burns fewer calories for the time spent,” said Dr Tan, the sports medicine chief at Changi General Hospital.
To compensate for the increased efficiency, one would need to increase the intensity or duration. Or try something new!
Dr Tan recommends doing different kinds of exercise, for variety’s sake as well as greater efficiency in overall conditioning. “We encourage people to learn or familiarise themselves with various sports such as swimming, cycling, rowing, running, racquet sports, so that they have more cross training options.”
Cross training forces one to use different muscle groups, while fatigued muscles take a break.
For example, after a session of cycling, which works the lower limb muscles, a swim would allow the legs some rest while the upper limb muscles continue the calorie burning, said Dr Tan.
Cross training also reduces the risk of overuse injuries as doing a single activity will lead to fatigue in the same body parts. “Pick whichever appeals to you. Some exercise is better than none,” Dr Tan said. “Start at whichever level you are comfortable with and progress from there.”