How many times a week do you workout? Hopefully, your answer is more than twice a week. Because if you want to lose weight, get stronger and leaner, and avoid cardiovascular disease or diabetes, spacing out your workouts too much won’t maximize these benefits. New studies also shed light on how more frequent workouts keep insulin and glucose levels in control.

Get Fit with Marta Montenegro

Exercise has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in just one workout. Unfortunately, some of the most important benefits of the heavy weightlifting session that your body felt on Monday or the grueling Spin class that you took on Tuesday will be gone by Friday if you don’t do anything in between.

Use it or lose it

Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., FACSM, professor at Missouri State University, explains in her article “Would you like to know?” published in the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, that exercising on a regular basis is particularly important as the effect on blood glucose control will be lost within days.

Glucose levels are affected for up to 12 hours or more after exercising while a transit exercise reduction or physical inactivity can substantially reduce insulin sensitivity.

When healthy subjects reduced their physical activity in three days from over 10,000 steps per day to 5,000 steps per day, postpandrial glucose (glucose levels measured after a carbohydrate meal intake) increased significantly, concludes the study “Lowering Physical Activity Impairs Glycemic Control in Healthy Volunteers,” published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

You may think that this is not a big deal, right? Well, despite that three days of reducing physical activity won’t affect your overall fitness  immediately, large fluctuations in blood glucose initiate a cascade of dangerous effects such as oxidative stress and inflammation, which has been shown to be related to arterial damage, aging acceleration, type 2 diabetes and increasing belly fat.

Muscle up!

Your muscles are the most powerful tool that you have to manage insulin and glucose levels due to their sensitivity to insulin and the exercise effect on glucose by increasing its transporters to the cells. Muscles are your primary source of energy intake.

The Kettlebells Workout

Pumping iron have the greatest impact on muscle mass and the interval pattern – high intensity effort/short periods followed by recovery periods – that resistance training imposes. It’s one way to exercise to maximize glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity.

But not just any kind of resistance training will be the most effective.

A study tested the same whole body circuit type workout consisting of 10 exercises, but one group did three sets of 10 reps and other did one set of 10 reps. The greater benefits in glucose regulation were observed with the higher volume group. However, insulin reduction was the same regardless of the protocol.

The message: Do a circuit type of workout, selecting eight to 10 exercises that work the major muscles, aiming for 3 sets of 10 reps. Do this routine three or four times a week leaving one day in between.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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