We are often advised to exercise or increase physical activity if looking for weight loss or blood sugar control. Have you ever wondered what could be the reason for this? Is there really something miraculous about exercising?
Yes, exercise can lower your blood glucose levels. Let’s understand this statement in detail.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is a typical feature of type 2 diabetes mellitus, though it can also occur in Type- 1. Insulin resistance is the term used to describe an individual's inability to enhance glucose uptake and utilization as much as it would in a normal population with a known amount of exogenous or endogenous insulin.
Insulin resistance has been linked to several different pathways. Among these are:
(1) Alterations in the genes of proteins involved in the insulin action cascade
(2) Significant visceral obesity
(3) Fatal undernutrition.
Insulin resistance typically manifests in patients as a collection of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders collectively known as "The Metabolic Syndrome," which has been linked to type 2 diabetes development.
How does Exercise help?
In response to exercise training, several studies have found improvements in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity when post-exercise measures were taken between 12 and 48 hours after the last workout. A single session of moderate intensity exercise can enhance glucose absorption by at least 40% (2)
This can happen in two ways.
- Increase in insulin sensitivity during and after exercise which helps the muscle cells to take up the available glucose and use it for energy.
- Muscle contraction during activity leads to cells taking up the glucose even when insulin is not available.
Exercise encourages weight loss, which reduces insulin resistance, a trait associated with obesity. Regular exercise also helps to reduce body fat. Appropriate body fat increases cellular insulin sensitivity. Moreover, extra adiposity around the waist contributes to insulin resistance.
Due to an increase in the presence of the glucose transporter GLUT4 (glucose transporter type 4) in plasma membranes and T-tubules, glucose absorption stays enhanced for up to 120 minutes after physical activity.
After exercise, insulin sensitivity rises for at least 16 hours. This is seen in both people with type 2 diabetes and healthy subjects. (3)
Inflammation plays an important role in pathogenesis of diseases like diabetes. Physiological markers of systemic inflammation have been found to be associated with hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and insulin resistance.
Exercise has been shown to cause an increase in the anti-inflammatory cytokines. Some animal studies have shown that endurance exercise can increase the levels of antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes in the skeletal and cardiac muscles, thus protecting oxidative stress.
From the above discussed points, it's clear that exercise does have beneficial effects for a person with diabetes. But exercise alone is not sufficient. It's important to pair exercise with a nutritionally balanced diet to supplement enough calories and protein for the exercising muscles.
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