What Just One Weight-Lifting Session Can Do for Diabetes

Updated: Oct. 12, 2022

You might dismiss the benefits of a single workout, but research suggests they're substantial—especially if you're exercising for diabetes.

More than 100 million Americans live with diabetes or have prediabetes, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is difficult to manage, and diabetes complications can be serious: Stroke, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease among them. Exercise is a powerful means of prevention. A study out of British Columbia shows that just one strength-training session delivers measurable benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

“In our study, a single set of lightweight leg exercises was able to improve blood vessel function,” says Jonathan Little, PhD, senior author of the study and Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. “The arteries were better able to dilate after exercise.”

One workout can work

The study examined three groups: people with type 2 diabetes, healthy non-exercisers, and healthy regular exercisers. All were asked to perform a 20-minute exercise routine, which included a warm-up and seven one-minute, high-intensity strength moves with a one-minute rest between each interval. “The positive effects persisted for two hours, showing that there were immediate benefits to the cardiovascular system from doing a single weight workout,” Little says. He also found that levels of inflammation dropped.

Experts believe that fast-paced high-interval training workouts (HIIT)—the concept most gym exercise classes are based upon—can improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and cholesterol levels, all while burning fat and toning muscle. “Kettlebells and your own body weight are amazing tools,” says Max Zeumer, New York Health & Racquet Club Personal Training Manager. “They’re easy to use and provide an array of exercise options.”


Check out this routine

Here is a quick lower body workout that you can adapt to your training level by upgrading weights as you progress. As with any exercise program, check with your doctor first to make sure this workout is right for you.

As you begin to adapt to these exercises without any issues, you can add a set to the exercise, maxing out at three sets, and gradually increasing weight to progress.

If you’re really focusing on improving blood flow, add in kettlebell swings as you advance. Add one minute to each exercise. Don’t forget to take your time to watch your form.