insulin resistance

How can exercise help combat insulin resistance?

What is Insulin Resistance (IR)?

IR is when their body does not respond properly to the hormone insulin. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin. When we eat food that contain carbohydrates they are broken down into glucose in the blood. The function of insulin is to transfer glucose into the liver and muscle cells to be used as energy, which manage our blood glucose levels.

For people with IR, the muscles and liver resist the action of insulin so the body has to produce an increased amount to keep the blood glucose levels within a normal range. IR increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and heart disease.

Exercise goals for those with IR are:

  • to prevent the progression to T2DM and
  • decrease dependence on medications.


Exercise itself improves this on many levels such as improving insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscles . With our skeletal muscles accounting for 30-40% of our body, it’s easy to see how being active can help to manage insulin sensitivity.

Research has shown that a single bout of prolonged aerobic exercise (30-60mins) can lower glucose levels and stimulate translocation and glucose transport activity in an insulin resistant skeletal muscle. Studies have also shown that sedentary individuals who engaged in resistance exercise at moderate intensity has improved their insulin sensitivity by 48%!

Getting started with exercise to manage blood glucose levels:

  • If you’ve never done any sort of exercise before its best to consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist in regards to a program suited to you.
  • If you have ongoing major health concerns seek a GP clearance before commencing any sort of exercise.
  • Start off with 15-20 minute walks to build tolerance 2-3 times a week.
  • Also add in whole body resistance exercises for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week.
  • If your local area has group classes for those at risk of T2DM or Diabetes classes it would be a great introduction to exercise!