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Get Moving! Exercise and Insulin Resistance in Muscle

Key points:

  • During exercise, muscle can directly take up glucose.

  • Exercise can lower insulin resistance by:

  • Increasing glucose (sugar) uptake by the muscle

  • Decreasing liver fat production

  • Lowering inflammation and oxidative stress

  • These positive effects can last 24-48 hours after exercising.

  • Resistance training offers both immediate and long-term benefits to combat insulin resistance by both burning glucose during exercise and building muscle.

In the last post, I discussed how insulin resistance starts at the muscle and alluded to exercise as a means to overcome it. Did you know that during exercise, muscle tissue can directly take up glucose independent of insulin? If you remember, in the previous post we reviewed how one of insulin’s jobs is to usher glucose (blood sugar) from the blood stream into body cells to be used as fuel. But this is one of the main problems in insulin resistance, the insulin is not working as well as it should to accomplish this. This sounds dire; however, our bodies are amazing and we now know that while a muscle is actively being worked, it can actually pull glucose (sugar) into the muscle cell to be used for energy without the help of insulin. So, if a person is insulin resistant, they can use exercise to bypass this resistance and get sugar out of the blood and into the muscle. This lowers blood sugar levels and thus insulin levels. Lower insulin levels mean less insulin resistance. In one study, it was found that a single bout of exercise that lasted 45 minutes done before ingesting a high- carbohydrate meal increased muscle glycogen synthesis and decreased liver fat synthesis in young, lean, but insulin-resistant participants. In other words, that single bout of exercise helped the muscles take up more sugar out of the blood and produce less fat in the liver. Another study found that participants that exercised consistently for 3 months had better insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation and lower oxidative stress, even if the participants didn’t lose weight. It is also interesting to note that some studies show that much of the insulin sensitizing effects of exercise can last up to 24-48 hours after. This indicates that exercise should be engaged in regularly to obtain and maintain the most benefit.

While all types of exercise (cardio and resistance training) are good and will contribute to helping to reverse or prevent insulin resistance at the muscle, resistance training plays an important role because not only does it help to acutely pull sugar into the muscle at the time of exercise, but resistance training also increases your muscle mass. Muscle is the largest “sink” for blood sugar. The more muscle tissue you have on your body, the greater the capacity you have to take up glucose, thus lowering blood sugar and insulin. Are you convinced yet? Are you itching to get out and go for a walk or go lift something heavy? I hope so, I know I am. What is your favorite way to exercise?

Do you want to start an exercise program, but feel a bit lost in what to do? Or, are you bored with your current regimen? Check out the Forever Fit Life Tribe membership for our monthly at-home workout plan that will help you take advantage of both the cardiovascular and muscle building benefits of exercise!

Forever yours in health,



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