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Pilates Helps Blood Sugar Control

If you think Pilates is only helpful for toning your muscles, think again. New research from the Journal  of Strength and Conditioning Research (published Feb 2012) is supporting the role of resistance training in improving blood sugar control. The study tracked insulin levels and glucose tolerance in overweight individuals with risk factors for type 2 diabetes before starting the exercise program and after 4 months of 3days/week of resistance training. The exercise program consisted of 8 exercises designed to work the entire body. (A well designed Pilates workout definitely works the entire body and includes far more than 8 exercises!)

Just some background on blood sugar (glucose) and insulin…

  • Every time you eat, your blood sugar goes up (especially when eating carbohydrates, like bread, cereal, rice, pasta, corn, potatoes, fruit, milk and anything sugary)
  • When your blood sugar goes up, your body releases insulin
  • Insulin escorts your blood sugar into your cells to be stored (as fat) or burned for energy (the more you exercise, the more you burn)

But, if your blood sugar is often high (from overeating carbohydrates or not exercising), this process doesn’t work as well.

  • High carb diets or lack of exercise (which leads you to become overweight) = consistently high blood sugar = consistently high insulin
  • Your cells get accustomed to high insulin levels and stop letting sugar into your cells (this is called insulin resistance or pre-diabetes)

This study showed that resistance exercise reduced blood sugar levels, reduced insulin levels, and improved the body’s response to insulin. In other words, Pilates helps blood sugar control in a number of ways. (As your body becomes more responsive to insulin, it doesn’t need to produce as much to get the same effect. This is a good thing!)

What does that mean for you? When you practice Pilates, your body is better at maintaining normal blood sugar and normal insulin levels. Pilates is great training if you are overweight, at risk for diabetes or have diabetes. Aside from the risk of diabetes, high blood sugar is harmful to your body in other ways (inflammation, wrinkles, damage to kidneys, and increased risk of heart disease).

Remember the key to results is consistency. In this study, the participants exercised 3 days/week. This is a good goal to work up to when starting Pilates.

If you liked this article and want more great tips to transform your body with good nutrition and Pilates, grab my freebie via the box below!

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

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  1. I’m Type2. I lost 20kg (44lbs) in 3 months after being diagnosed a year ago. My blood sugar dropped to 3.9 and I stopped dieting, just ate healthily and my blood sugar was good. After 6 months, I started to gain a bit. I quit smoking, then Christmas – I was up 7lbs (3 kilos), throwing me from overweight back into obesity range.
    So I am attempting to lose again. And I’m taking pilates (1x wk) and yoga (2x wk). My dietitian said to eat <100 carbs a day (I was on <50carbs when I lost 20kilos).
    NOW my blood sugar is yoyo-ing. Thurs night after work, I was a 4.4. Saturday morning I was at 8.2. The only major change is Pilates and yoga. (I walk with my dogs a mile+ a day for the past 3 years.)
    So I'm going to ignore the blood sugar and lose this weight asap. MAYBE then I can normalize.
    Seeing my doc next week.

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