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.
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