You may think that you need to spend hours at the gym doing exercises you loathe to reduce your risk for diabetes. But the truth is that even a little weight loss benefits diabetes.

In fact, studies have shown that losing only 5-7% of your body weight (typically between seven to 10 pounds) can dramatically cut your risk for diabetes.

So how does being overweight increase diabetes risk?

Boost Insulin Sensitivity: How Weight Loss Benefits Diabetes

When you’re overweight, the cells in your body become less sensitive to insulin. That’s because fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells. And the more fat you have, the less effective insulin is. Instead of glucose being taken into the cells and used for energy, it remains circulating in the blood or stored as more fat.

It’s not just how much fat you’re carrying, but also where you’re carrying it. People who carry more weight around their waist – an “apple-shape” – are more likely to suffer from insulin resistance and diabetes than “pear-shaped” people who carry weight in the hips and thighs.

The first step in getting lean is addressing and correcting your diet.

Your Diet: 80% of The Equation for Weight Loss

When you consider that you could run for an hour on a treadmill to burn 500 calories, but drink a 500-calorie coffee drink in five minutes, it’s easy to see why exercise can’t negate the sins of overeating… or eating the WRONG foods.

In fact, diet that is high in carbohydrates will program your body to “store fat” because of its effects on insulin (the “fat storage hormone”) – even if your total calorie intake is relatively low. But a higher fat diet that’s low in carbohydrates with moderate protein, will have a completely different metabolic effect on the body – igniting your metabolism and promoting fat burning thanks to an increase in glucagon – the “weight loss hormone”.

For the best results losing weight with diabetes, make a meal plan. This will help you to stay on track and allow you to monitor your intake over time. This is VERY important for weight loss because most people underestimate the amount of food they eat on a daily basis by as much as 500 calories.

Exercise: Are You Doing The RIGHT Kind?

Once you’re eating the right amount of high quality, nutrient-packed, blood-sugar stabilizing calories, the next step is to make an exercise plan to get you in the healthy habit of regular physical activity.

The right kind of exercise can help you torch through fat, protect you from heart disease and dramatically improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.  But to get these benefits, and see rapid results, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is best. In fact, long slow cardio has been found to have detrimental effects to the heart and lungs and offer little benefit to body composition.

If you’re carrying extra pounds and think HIIT is impossible, consider the pool. You can do “sprints” in the water that raise your heart rate and provide you with fat-burning benefits, without impact on your joints.