Bodybuilding can have a protective effect against type II diabetes, but this doesn’t’ mean you must develop huge muscles.

“Any type of regular physical activity (both cardio and strength training) are beneficial in reducing the risk of type II diabetes,” says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with over 10 years of experience in various community and clinical settings.

“The mechanisms by which physical activity helps to prevent type II diabetes continue to be researched. Current research suggests that physical activity improves insulin action and lowers blood glucose levels.”

One such study report appears in the journal Diabetes (Feb. 2004, Holten et al). Two groups (one with type II diabetes and one healthy) underwent a course of strength training on a single leg for six weeks.

The weightlifting resulted in increased insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance, which is a forerunner of type II diabetes). Insulin activity was increased in skeletal muscle.

This involves proteins and, what the report says was a more efficacious “insulin signaling cascade.”

So is bodybuilding better at preventing type II diabetes than a more run-of-the-mill strength training program?

In a way, it is. That’s because if you commit to a true bodybuilding program, your workouts will be more intense.

This doesn’t mean you must develop hulking muscles in order to fight off type II diabetes.

A committed bodybuilder doesn’t necessarily have giant muscles or a bulked-up look.

But when someone decides to take up bodybuilding, this affects how they approach every training session: with much more gusto and zest, like an attack on each routine.

It’s believed that lifting weights increases the number of insulin receptor sites on muscle cells.

Consider that having a large quantity of insulin receptor sites on your muscle cells as an extra layer of protection against type II diabetes.

Though other mechanisms are at play in the development of type II diabetes, building muscle through bodybuilding is a powerful deterrent to this metabolic disease.

Alison Massey has been working in the field of nutrition for more than 10 years helping individuals make sustainable changes to improve their health.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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Source: diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/53/2/294