Squats are an excellent strength training exercise for people with diabetes including older individuals.
There are many variations of the squat, and which variation the diabetic should do is dependent upon which version he or she likes the most.
Orthopedic issues would be more of a contraindication to squats than the diabetes itself.
If a diabetic has been given clearance by their physician to engage in strength training, then the squat is one of the best exercises for this population.
Of course, an orthopedic issue such as shoulder pain might make the back-squat variation uncomfortable, since it involves having a barbell rest across the upper back while the hands hold the barbell for balance.
Some people report knee pain when doing the back squat but not when performing dumbbell squats or hex bar squats.
But whether you choose the back version, hex bar variation, or holding weights to your chest while squatting, the joint movement itself is the same:
• Hip flexion
• Knee flexion
• Ankle flexion (dorsiflexion)
• Low back isometric contraction
These joint movements engage a lot of major muscle groups as well as the core stabilizer muscles, making the squat one of the best multi-joint (compound) exercises – as well as fat-burners.
Man people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and weight loss is crucial for improving the management of this metabolic disease. Compound strength training is a fierce opponent against excess body fat.
A paper in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (Hordern et al, Jan. 2012) strongly recommends, in addition to aerobic exercise for diabetics, strength training.
The study authors specifically recommend at least two weightlifting sessions per week (two to four sets; eight to 10 repetitions).
A report in Diabetes (Holten et al, Feb. 2004) states that “we found that strength training for 30 min three times per week increases insulin action in skeletal muscle.”
There are many studies showing the benefits of lifting weights for those with diabetes, such as a study that’s printed in Diabetes Care (Dunstan et al, Oct. 2002).
What Diabetics Should Know
About the Squat Exercise
Mastering correct and safe form is crucial before loading up the resistance. This basic rule applies to those without diabetes as much as it does to those with the disorder.
There are books written about how to do the squat correctly, but the first and foremost rule is to avoid getting ahead of yourself and trying to break records.
Start out with just bodyweight squats. Go down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
This movement alone will be difficult for some people, as they will find they need to go up on the balls of their feet or hold onto something in front of themselves to avoid falling backwards.
Before adding weights to the picture (whether a barbell across your upper back or holding a kettlebell or weight plate to your chest), you should first be able to do 12 strong bodyweight squats – with perfect form – and sinking low enough so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. A little deeper is okay, too.