Resistance Band Exercises for Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 12, 2019

If you have diabetes, it's a good idea to exercise and make your muscles stronger. Studies show that strength training -- also called resistance training -- can help your body use insulin better, lower your glucose levels, help burn more calories, and maybe even help you need less medicine.

But if pumping iron isn't your thing, you can get a good workout with resistance bands -- no heavy objects or gym membership needed.

What Are Resistance Bands?

woman exercising with resistance bandThe bands are made of rubber and are like very thick, strong elastic bands. You get a workout by stretching them. Some come with handles. Others, you wrap around your hands. They come in different strengths and sizes. The harder they are to stretch, the tougher your workout.

You can use resistance bands in different ways to work different muscles in your body. They're better than other strength training options in several ways:

  • They're inexpensive. Prices for a set start at around $10. That's cheaper than a set of weights or a gym membership.
  • You can use them anywhere. Unlike weights, resistance bands are light and easy to take with you. Stick them in your luggage or the trunk of your car. Use them while you watch TV or on coffee breaks at work.
  • They're adaptable. You can work your whole body with a set of resistance bands. And as you get stronger, you can double up with two bands for a tougher workout.


Your Weekly Routine

The American Diabetes Association recommends resistance training at least twice a week. That's along with -- not in place of -- 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, like walking, jogging, or biking, per week. Each type of exercise is good for you in different ways.

A good goal is to do 2 sets of 15 repetitions (reps) for each exercise you do:

  • Reps are the number of times you do a specific exercise. For example, if you do 1 bicep curl, that's 1 rep.
  • Sets are a specific number of reps you do in a row before resting or switching to a new exercise. So one set of bicep curls might be 15 reps.

You might not be able to manage that right away, but you can build up to it. And as you get stronger, you might do even more. You can also get stronger bands, which will be harder to stretch.

Exercises to Get You Started

You've got your set of colorful resistance bands, now what? It's good to work out a strength-training plan with your doctor or a qualified physical trainer. But here are a few suggestions to get you going:

Bicep Curl (Upper Arms)

1.    Hold an end of the band in each hand.

2.    Step onto the band with one foot.

3.    Curl your arms up from the elbow slowly, stretching the band.

4.    Bring your arms back down slowly.

Triceps Extension (Upper Arms)

1.    Put the band around the back of your neck and hold an end of the band in each hand.

2.    Hold your arms loosely at a 90-degree angle (in an L-shape).

3.    Bend your arms down slowly from the elbow toward your legs, stretching the band until your arms are straight.

4.    Bring your arms back up slowly.

Chest Press (Chest)

1.    Slip the band around your back so it runs under your armpits.

2.    Hold an end of the band in each hand.

3.    Slowly push your arms forward parallel to the floor until they're stretched all the way out.

4.    Slowly bring your arms back.

Rear Deltoid (Upper Back)

1.    Hold an end of the band in each hand.

2.    Put your arms straight out in front of you, so they're parallel to the floor.

3.    Stretch your arms wide to the sides, lengthening the band.

4.    Bring your arms back slowly.

Seated Row (Upper Back, Shoulders, and Neck)

1.    Sit in a strong armless chair.

2.    Hold one end of the band in each hand.

3.    Loop the band under your feet and then put them flat on the floor.

4.    Start with your hands down by your legs.

5.    Pull your elbows back and up, stretching the band until your hands are by your hips.

6.    Slowly return your hands to the starting position.

High-Resistance Squat (Legs)

1.    Hold an end of the band in each hand.

2.    Step on the band with both feet.

3.    Stretch your hands up so they're about shoulder height.

4.    Squat like you're sitting down without letting your knees go past the front of your toes.

5.    Stand back up.

Hamstring Curl (Legs)

1.    Tie (or connect) your resistance band into a loop.

2.    Step into the loop with both feet so it's around your ankles.

3.    Hold on to the back of a chair for balance.

4.    Put your weight onto one foot.

5.    Lift the other foot up, bending it back toward your butt, feeling the elastic stretch.

6.    Return the foot back to the floor.

7.    Repeat with the other leg.

Things to Remember

When you start training with resistance bands, keep these things in mind:

  • Talk to your doctor first, especially if you have any kidney or eye problems because of your diabetes.
  • Don't push too hard. If any exercise hurts, stop.
  • Don't hold your breath.Instead, as you do the exercise and stretch out, breathe out. As you relax, breathe in.
  • Keep your movements slow and even. In general, aim for 3 seconds as you stretch out and 3 seconds as you relax. Don't let the bands snap back.
  • Choose the right level of resistance. It should be a bit hard to do the exercise, not super-easy or painfully difficult.


WebMD Medical Reference



American Diabetes Association: "What We Recommend."

Joslin Diabetes Center: "Resistance Band Routines and Diabetes," "Resistance Band Training for Arms," "Resistance Band Training for Legs," "High-Resistance Squat."

National Institute on Aging: "Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging."

American College of Sports Medicine: "A Strength Training Program for Your Home."

American Council on Exercise: "Whole-Body Exercise Band Workout."

Canadian Diabetes Association: "Introductory Resistance Program."

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