Insulin resistance and exercise

This week in the HSI e-Alert

On this day when American children everywhere are begging for and gorging on candy, it should be no surprise that sugar is on my mind – and on our Forum. Today it comes in the form of insulin resistance.

As you’ve heard me say time and again, as we grow older our tendency to become insulin resistant increases, opening the door to type 2 diabetes, a compromised immune system, and a vulnerability to many chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Fortunately, regular exercise can make a huge difference in your insulin sensitivity. On the HSI Forum this week, a member named John starts off a thread titled “Insulin and Exercise” with some very specific questions about, well insulin and exercise: “I suffer from insulin resistance. I have heard that exercise can help to combat insulin resistance, which is needed to prevent Type II diabetes. Does anyone know if there is a type of exercise that controls insulin the best? Also, does it matter when the exercise is done (i.e. first thing in the morning, after a meal)? Also, for how long do you need to exercise?”

A member named Christian keeps it simple, stating “Perform total body workouts!” while noting that all of the muscles need exercise in order to maximize glucose absorption. And Roz suggests 15 to 30 minutes of exercise each day, “the longer, the better. Let’s face it – any is better than none. Now if only I could follow my own advice.”

Then a member named Don opens up the discussion by observing the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. In a nutshell: Anaerobic exercise (such as weight lifting) is done in short sessions and improves muscle tone. Aerobic exercise (such as running or brisk walking) is usually done in longer sessions and improves heart rate.

Over the course of several postings we find out that around age 40 Don was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He began weight training for 30 minutes, 3 times each week. Now, at age 83, he says he’s in “excellent” physical shape, and adds, “If I had not been told I had type 2, I may have never started taking good care of myself. A wake up call can be a good thing!” Needless to say, Don recommends anaerobic exercise to address insulin resistance.

Lance agrees, along with this observation: “When it comes to improving insulin sensitivity (reducing insulin resistance), most research is going to support aerobic activity. Earlier research suggested/claimed only high intensity aerobic activity reduced insulin resistance. More recent research indicates even low intensity aerobic (such as walking helps). Only recently has anaerobic exercise been given equal billing with aerobic activity for controlling managing diabetes (glucose levels).”

As for John’s question about when to exercise, a member named Gerry offers this: “Since we expect blood glucose levels to rise after meals, then diabetics would do well to engage in physical activity after meals. This way, the glucose will enter the muscles (drop the blood levels in the process) without needing insulin.”

Anyone looking for information on exercising to address insulin resistance will find this thread a very informative place to start.

Other topics of interest on the HSI Forum this week include sleep apnea, memory loss, mega-doses of vitamin C, skin melanoma, and several threads about eye floaters. And if you’d like to get to know a little bit about some of the regulars on the Forum, a friendly thread titled “Name Your State” reveals just how geographically diverse our membership is.

And now are you ready for some football?

While most of us turned back the clock an hour on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens turned it back about a year, with another decisive win over the Denver Broncos. (See the e-Alert, “Ravens 34, Broncos 23” from 10/1/02.) Though most expect them to beat the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars, the AFC-North leading Ravens could take the game for granted and blow it. But a loss to the Bengals two weeks ago taught them never to assume. The Jaguars have a tough defense – especially against the run – but they haven’t faced the game’s leading rusher yet. And this is the first week Kyle Boller will be throwing numbers against another 2003 first round draft pick. He may just look like a veteran against Leftwhich. But as all football fans knowon any given Sunday Here’s hoping this Sunday is Baltimore’s again.