Type 2 Diabetes – Improving Insulin Sensitivity Through Exercise


Exercise always lowers blood glucose (BG) on a 24-hour basis, but sometimes exercise also briefly raises BG following a workout. What happens during these brief cases of transient exercise-induced elevation of BG is called exercise-induced elevations in BG (EIUBG).

Since exercise releases sugar into the circulation (glycogen storage), exercise may temporarily increase BG for a few hours after the workout. In healthy people, exercise releases a few grams of sugar into the circulation for about 2 hours. Healthy people are therefore able to store about 2 grams of glycogen. But when they exercise, the storage capacity of their cells is temporarily increased to absorb up to 4 grams of glycogen. It is during exercise bouts that exercise temporarily elevates BG as blood vessels are temporarily overloaded. So this brief bout of exercise-induced elevation of BG is really an exercise-induced elevation in BG, termed exercise-induced elevations in glucose (EIUBG).

The duration of exercise bouts is more important than the amount of exercise performed. Exercising regularly lowers post-exercise BG. Studies have shown that even a short bout of exercise can lowered post-exercise BG readings. A study by Gogtay et al in the September, 2002, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, showed that after marathon training, the BG was lowered after 10 minutes of exercise. However, once the participants finished their 10 minutes of exercise, their BG was lowered further to its baseline readings.

When the duration of exercise is reduced, the increase in BG during exercise may not be seen. This may be because the exercise session does not produce a long enough bout of elevating BG. So for some individuals, the short bout of elevating BGs from exercise is not long enough to be captured in the following blood glucose monitoring.

In addition to duration, any increase in exercise intensity can alter the elevation of BG during exercise. The intensity of exercise determines how hard the exerciser trains the muscles, and how fast the muscles are able to absorb the energy. It turns out that if the intensity of the exercise is reduced too far, the muscles will not be able to use the sugar the way the muscle cells need to for a bout of exercise. The muscles are unable to take in sugar fast enough and sugar is released into the blood stream which then turns into fat. The release of sugar into the blood stream is the main reason that moderate intensity exercise is generally prescribed for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In a study by Goytay et al published in the September, 2006, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the intensity of exercise was increased beyond the limits of moderate intensity for a group of people with Type 2 diabetes. Those who exercised beyond the limits of moderate intensity did not show any changes in insulin sensitivity or improved insulin sensitivity.

High intensity exercise does not always mean strenuous activity. High intensity can be done gradually for a long duration or moderately intense for a short duration.

Exercise can be pleasurable for all members of the family.

It is important to check BG before and after exercise. Glucose measurement and measurement of insulin during exercise is important for the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and for the management of this disease. Exercises that involve muscle contraction and stretching should be avoided, as they are a cause of post-exercise hyperglycemia. Also, stretching exercises for the lower body should be avoided. This can lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels.

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