Try a Little Exercise

Published Online: Sunday, September 1, 2002

A little exercise, even as little as 30 minutes of walking every other day, can significantly improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Florida researchers recently followed 18 previously sedentary, middle-aged, overweight subjects for 6 months. They found that insulin sensitivity improved just by adding exercise without improving diet.

Participants were divided into different exercise groups. All groups walked for 30 minutes a session, but some walked at higher frequencies (5 to 7 days a week versus 3 to 4 days) and different intensities (65% to 75% of their aerobic capacity versus 45% to 55%). They were told not to try to lose weight, but just to focus on the exercise. After 6 months, the insulin sensitivity of all individuals had improved greatly.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Katja Van Herle, chief of endocrinology at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, said: ?When you use skeletal muscle [during workouts], it allows insulin to be more effective at opening the cell door to get the sugar in [from the bloodstream]. As we gain more fat cells and don?t exercise our skeletal muscles, the doors to the cells get ?stuck.?The pancreas makes more insulin. Sugar levels rise. This study underscores the importance of exercise at reversing this insulin resistance.?

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