Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Exercise and Insulin Sensitivity

by Kris Pitcher

We all know we're supposed to exercise. It's good for us, right? But sometimes we forget why. We think about fitting into a certain size or looking a certain way. There are more important reasons to fit exercise into our schedule though.

Insulin is the hormone that helps us regulate our blood sugar levels. It's the shuttle system that helps get the glucose from our blood into our cells. When we have a situation where the insulin is shuttling the glucose in our blood, but the cells have become less receptive to that glucose...we have a problem.

The cells have become resistant, so now we can't control our blood sugar levels. Usually, there's a combination of things happening including inactivity and bad food choices. This is how we become diabetic. We've created a situation where we have blood sugar levels that are way too high, and we can't control them on our own.

Regular cardiovascular activity increases insulin sensitivity (of those receptor cells) so they can accept and store the glucose being shuttled by the insulin. Regular exercise helps us to make our own insulin too, so the diabetic can take less insulin to control blood sugar.

Insulin resistance and associated diabetes has problems that go along with it too. Things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation, and abdominal obesity (Strength Conditioning Journal 33 (5):40-43, 2011) all of which are reduced with regular cardiovascular exercise.

The next time you begrudge your cardio session think of your pancreas (the organ that secretes insulin) and know that you are fine tuning it's function. You are creating a situation of sensitivity within your fat and muscle cells so that you can maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Now, go do your cardio!

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