Diabetes and Exercise: Pump It Up With Pilates
Pilates is an exercise method proven to improve flexibility, strength, coordination, muscular stamina, balance, and posture.
Many Pilates exercises are done while lying down, which may appeal to some people, but being horizontal is the only similarity between Pilates and being a couch potato.
The six principles of Pilates - concentration, control, centering, breathing, flow, and precision - reveal the disciplined nature of this workout. However, the exercises are easily modified to accommodate beginners, different fitness levels, ages, shapes, and physical, or medical limitations.
A typical Pilates routine is a series of repetitive strengthening and toning exercises that target the body’s core - abdomen, lower back, inner and outer thighs, and derriere - utilizing one of two formats:
- Floor based Pilates is done on an exercise mat and may only use the body’s weight for resistance, or might incorporate elastic bands, exercise rings, balls, or bricks.
- Machine based Pilates uses either the Cadillac or the Reformer machine - a system of springs and pulleys - to add weight and provide resistance.
Though some Pilates moves are held for a specific number of breaths, the body is generally in motion during a workout.
Pilates Perks and Diabetes
Because Pilates builds muscle it can be beneficial for diabetes management. Muscle utilizes glucose better than fat does, so having more muscle may improve blood sugar numbers. With greater muscle mass we also burn more calories when at rest, and this contributes to weight loss.
Further, the core strength focus of Pilates may help reduce abdominal, or belly fat. This fat sits at the waistline and surrounds internal organs, putting people at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Other Pilates benefits include increased flexibility, balance, and spine strength. This not only enhances our sense of well-being, but helps us avoid falls and injury. The workouts are low-impact, so may be tolerable for those suffering from neuropathy.
Pilates Pluses and Cautions
Another plus for Pilates is its availability and convenience.
Pilates can be learned and done at home, and there are many TV, DVD, and website resources suited to different fitness levels. However, learning the basics from a certified Pilates instructor is highly recommended—maintaining the correct form while exercising guarantees the greatest benefit, and reduces risk of injury. It’s not difficult to find Pilates classes since most health clubs offer them.
As beneficial as Pilates can be, it is not for everyone. Consult with your doctor before trying it, particularly if you have labile blood pressure, severe osteoporosis, a herniated disk, or are at risk for blood clots.
Should you take a Pilates class let the instructor know if you have diabetes. Certain Pilates exercises may not be good for those with high blood pressure, diabetic retinopathy, or musculoskeletal problems.
Sources: Rogers, Kate , and Gibson, Ann L.; Eight-Week Traditional Mat Pilates Training-Program Effects on Adult Fitness Characteristics. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80/3 Sept. 2009; Joslin Center; Mayo Clinic;
Photo credit: U.S. Army