Is It Time to Try a Trainer?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 03, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

You probably know that exercise lowers blood sugar and protects your health when you have diabetes. So you’ve made it part of your routine, whether it’s a daily stroll or sweaty gym session.

But what happens when your workouts feel ho-hum and you need an extra boost to get going? Or maybe you want to shed a few pounds, ramp up your fitness, or sign up for a 5K. That’s when a personal trainer can help.

“A trainer creates a program that’s tailored to your specific needs and fitness level,” says Jessica Matthews, an assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego. Besides teaching you new exercises, they can help you safely reach your goals and make sure you stay on track.

If you can afford a trainer at the gym, go for it, says Sarah Nadeem, MD, an assistant professor of endocrinology at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, IL. “They can help make exercise part of your lifestyle, which is one of the best things you can do for diabetes care.”

What Can a Trainer Do for You?

Why spend the money if you’re already exercising on your own? Well, the benefits can be worth it. Here are ways hiring a trainer can pay off:

Keep you on track. Sure, we’ve all skipped the gym after a long day. But if you’ve missed more than a few workouts, a trainer can call you on it. After all, you’re more likely to show up if you’ve already scheduled (and paid) for a session.

“A trainer can give you that extra push you need,” says Sheri Colberg, PhD, professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. That’s important, because regular physical activity is key when you have diabetes: Working out gives you more control over your blood sugar and a better quality of life than people who don’t stay active, studies show.

Help you reach a goal. Have you always wanted to run a 5K? Did your doctor say you need to shed a few pounds? A personal trainer can guide you toward that target.

“Many people try to do too much, too soon on their own,” Matthews says. “They may wind up feeling discouraged and give up.”

A trainer will pave the way for your success by creating a day-by-day program for your race or a calorie-burning workout regimen that encourages weight loss. Always check in with your doctor before you start a new exercise program, though.

Avoid injuries. Having diabetes means you may need to take extra precautions during your workout. If your blood sugar dips too low, you might become woozy or faint. “If you’re at high risk for hypoglycemia, always exercise with a partner,” Nadeem says.

Not only is your trainer a built-in safety net, they can also keep you from getting hurt. This involves showing you how to warm up and cool down, and making sure you do movements correctly. “Having the proper form keeps you from straining a muscle or developing an overuse injury,” Matthews says. 

Make the most of your workouts. Even if you go on a walk or hop on the elliptical machine five times a week, you may not get all the health benefits you need.

A good trainer uses exercise science and research to help you make the most of your time. For example, you may need to add strength-training to your routine: It can help your body use insulin better. Or your trainer may suggest you add "intervals" to your cardio, which can give you more of a health boost than working out at the same level. 

Keep you going. Let’s face it: Doing the same thing over and over gets boring. A personal trainer will switch things up to keep it fun and interesting. “You’ll learn new workouts and exercises that you can eventually do on your own,” Matthews says. She’s also your cheerleader, keeping you pumped throughout the session.

How Do You Choose the Right Trainer?

They're not all created equal. You need to find one who knows about diabetes. To make the right match, look for someone with:  

Proper certification: They should be certified by a program that’s verified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. These include:

  • American Council on Exercise
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

Some groups have specialty certifications for training people with medical needs, including diabetes. The American Council on Exercise’s medical exercise specialist is one.

Diabetes experience: A trainer who’s worked with people who have the disease will have a better grasp of your risks and know what you can and can’t do.

Your doctor can also make suggestions, Nadeem says. Or you can check with an exercise facility linked to a university or hospital. 

WebMD Feature



Jessica Matthews, MS, assistant professor of exercise science, Miramar College; senior advisor of health and fitness education, American Council on Exercise.

Sarah Nadeem, MD, FACE, assistant professor of endocrinology, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine.

American Diabetes Association: “Physical Activity Is Important.”

Nicolucci, A. Diabetologia, March 2012.

Umpierre, D. Diabetologia, February 2013.

Bacchi, E. Diabetes Care, April 2012.

Francois, M. Diabetes Spectrum, February 2015.

Institute for Crediting Excellence: “NCCA Accredited Certification Programs.”

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