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How Personal Trainers Can Help with Diabetes Management

As exercise professionals, being able to make a real difference in the lives of clients with diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic conditions is incredibly rewarding.

Remaining physically active is essential for diabetes management, and personal trainers can make sure their clients are maintaining the right levels of aerobic exercise and weight training.

Personal trainers and other fitness professionals meet diabetic clients regularly, according to Future Fit Training’s Health and Wellbeing Specialist Anthony Crozier.

“We can only assume that the prevalence of diabetes, specifically type 2 (T2D) will increase in the next few years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity levels, health behaviours and disease management.”

A personal trainer can be the difference a diabetic client needs to help them stick to their fitness goals, especially if they are new or reluctant towards an exercise programme. With the number of diabetic clients on the rise, the need for personal trainers to be more educated about what diabetes is, and how to train diabetic clients effectively and safely is vital to the health management of their community.

Want to know more about diabetes and how a personal trainer can help manage the condition? Read on to learn the benefits of exercise to diabetic clients and what you can do as a trainer to make a real impact on your clients’ lives.

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Personal Training Equipment


What is Diabetes?


According to the NHS, diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar levels to be too high. This is because of the body’s inability to break down the glucose in food to produce energy, due to inefficient production of insulin (the hormone that controls the blood sugar, produced by the pancreas).

There are 2 types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. Type 1 is maintained by daily insulin injections to keep the blood glucose levels stable. The cause of type 1 diabetes is uncertain.
  • Type 2 – the body cannot make enough insulin, or the cells do not react to insulin. Type 2 can be maintained by medication but is also managed by healthy eating, regular exercise, and blood sugar monitoring.

We know that over time,” says Anthony Crozier, “diabetes can have a devastating impact on a person’s health, increasing the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and stroke”. Diabetes can also lead to blindness and kidney failure.

“As fitness professionals, therefore, it is vital that we gain the necessary training to help diabetic clients manage their disease, through physical activity and improved health.” Anthony Crozier


Diabetes Facts That Trainers Should be Aware Of

  • Currently, in the UK there are 3.9 million people with diabetes, although that figure rises to 4.8 million when you factor in those who are undiagnosed (type 2).
  • 90% of diabetes is classified as type 2 (the lifestyle associated type), with 8% type 1 (auto-immune causation) and 2% are rarer forms.
  • Additionally, current UK population obesity levels `sit` at around 28%, with 36% of people classified as overweight. As weight and type 2 diabetes are linked, this is also a cause for concern.

Diabetes Type Percentage Number of People
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) 8% 304,000
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)
90% 3,420,000
Rarer Forms 2% 76,000

  • Diagnosis of depression is twice as high in diabetics as in the general population.
  • In the UK a diabetic is 4 times more likely to suffer from heart disease than a non-diabetic.
“You might, probably correctly, expect the prevalence of these conditions to increase across these times, but will the numbers of exercise professionals qualified to [work with] these people match this, and therefore meet the need?” Anthony Crozier


How PT’s Can Help Clients Managing Diabetes


“Although the benefits of physical activity and exercise are applicable to all diabetic patients, the reasons for undertaking exercise can differ depending on which type you have.

Benefits of exercise for diabetic patients can include:

  • Decreased insulin requirements
  • Increased post-exercise glucose uptake
  • Blood pressure reduction
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Weight management
  • Increased physical work capacity
  • Improved mental wellbeing
  • Enhanced quality of life and self-esteem

Weight management seems to be the key element of T2D treatments due to the links with obesity. In T1D patients, a healthy diet is also essential to ensure appropriate blood glucose levels and to reduce the risk of complications such as cardiovascular disease.

Exercise, however, is not considered to be the most important method for lowering blood glucose levels for T1Ds. These patients are encouraged to exercise, as it can provide other benefits such as improving cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity, which can lead to a reduction in the dose of insulin the client requires.

It is important to understand, however, that it is not our job as exercise professionals to advise diabetic clients on their nutritional intake to balance their blood glucose levels. I would always refer patients to the Diabetes UK website which recommends that everyone with diabetes should see a registered dietician when they are first diagnosed, and then have regular reviews for specific advice on their eating habits.”

For more specific information on healthy diets for diabetics, see: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/what-is-a-healthy-balanced-diet



To Conclude


Having a good understanding of the causes and maintenance techniques of clients managing diabetes is essential to understanding the best exercise practices, limitations, and what will be the most beneficial to them.

Knowing what intensity of exercise is appropriate (running and energetic team sports may heighten the blood glucose levels, whereas slower, more moderate exercises can cause a slow drop in blood glucose levels) can give you confidence when creating exercise plans that have the potential to vastly improve the quality of life for a diabetic client.

Keep an eye out in the next week for the second blog in this “Diabetes and Personal Training” series, focusing on the practical side of the mental, social, and physical effects of exercise and physical activity for diabetic clients.


Want to know more about how you can develop your skills with managing diabetes through exercise? Email us or call our careers advice team on 01329 829444 to book your place on our Level 4 Obesity and Diabetes Management course launching in our new School of Health.


This blog was written in partnership with Anthony Crozier MSc (Health and Wellbeing Specialist at Future Fit Training and creator of the Level 4 Obesity and Diabetes Management Course) as part of a 3-part series of blogs surrounding Diabetes and Personal Training. Anthony has over 20 years of experience in community and clinical exercise provision as a rehabilitation practitioner with the NHS, various local authorities, and the private sector.