Exercise Protects Against Insulin Insensitivity

A pre-diabetic condition known as insulin resistance syndrome can be prevented by exercise. Insulin resistance is the mechanism that creates type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes is a situation where the pancreas does not produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Eating sugar and starch forces the body to produce a lot of insulin, over time, the body stops responding to the insulin creating insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is also responsible for something called the metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome x. In the metabolic syndrome, the individual tends to have high cholesterol with low HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and low LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), and high triglycerides. One of the big problems caused by insulin resistance is obesity. People who are insulin resistant tend to be overweight (especially carrying weight around the abdomen) and may have high blood pressure.

Research appearing in the March 23, 2003 issue of Diabetes Care [26:557-562] followed 18 sedentary men and women for six months. Participants exercised between three and seven days each week by walking  for a half-hour.

At the end of the study, researchers examined insulin sensitivity and levels of blood fats, such as cholesterol. None of the subjects lost weight during the study period, but they did enjoy an increase in insulin sensitivity. The researchers concluded that exercise alone increased insulin sensitivity—even without weight loss. The researchers concluded that even moderate exercise, without weight loss or loss of abdominal fat, can improve indicators of glucose and fat metabolism and lower the risk for developing type-2 diabetes.

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