Improving Health and Preventing Disease: anaerobic exercise & insulin sensitivity

Everyone likes his or her dose of sugar. Most people would prefer to eat candy or ice cream instead of eating vegetables. Many individuals also make up every excuse in the book to justify skipping the gym. But what is this doing to our bodies? An unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle are both major factors in becoming more resistant to a hormone known as insulin. Being resistant to insulin is associated with many health issues and is the primary factor in developing type II diabetes. Therefore, it is imperative to increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Anaerobic exercise can significantly increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin improving health and preventing disease such as type II diabetes.

What is Insulin Sensitivity?

Insulin sensitivity is your body’s responsiveness to the fuel source glucose. Glucose is a sugar and is a major source of energy for our body. It is obtained through eating carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, beans, and fruits. When you eat a carbohydrate, it will be broken down by your digestive system and results in glucose being released into your bloodstream. Your body registers that glucose levels are increased in the blood stream and your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to direct the cells to use the glucose from the blood stream for fuel. Insulin then stores any glucose that is left over as fat to be used later for energy. When excess insulin is circulating in the blood stream it can cause health issues such as damaged blood vessels, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It is important to be sensitive to insulin because it will improve your body’s efficiency to the hormone, which will reduce the amount of insulin circulating in the bloodstream, preventing health issues.

What causes the body to become resistant to insulin?

Every time a cell comes in contact with insulin, the cell becomes more resistant to it. This is an unavoidable reason that people become more resistant to insulin as they age. However, there are also risk factors in becoming resistant to insulin that can be avoided such as a high body fat percentage, a decrease in muscle mass, an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and a low level of overall fitness. Even though there is no way to change the fact that we age, preventative measures to increase insulin sensitivity are possible.

How can you become more sensitive to insulin with anaerobic exercise?

Maintaining a healthy diet and a low body fat percentage are important factors for increasing insulin sensitivity. Anaerobic exercise is also a well-known way to increase insulin sensitivity. Anaerobic exercise is any short duration activity in which the body does not use oxygen to fuel metabolic activity. Bodybuilding, sprints, and resistance training are all examples of anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise has both a direct and indirect impact on insulin sensitivity. It has an indirect impact because exercise helps maintain low body fat percentage, increase muscle mass and strength and an overall better level of physical fitness. It has a direct impact because of the role anaerobic exercise has on glucose metabolism.

What role does glucose play in anaerobic exercise?

The next time you get a personal record while performing a bench press, you can thank glucose. Glucose is the starting point for the anaerobic mechanism responsible for causing muscle contraction. Without glucose, your muscles would not be able to contract and you would not be able to exercise. After anaerobic exercise, your muscles have an increase glucose uptake due to increased activation and expression of proteins that are involved in bringing glucose into the muscle. This increase in activation and expression of these proteins takes away some of the responsibility of insulin’s job. By being more active, it makes it easier for glucose to be transported from the bloodstream into the muscle. Since these proteins function better, it requires less insulin to help direct the glucose into the cells. Therefore, exercise increases insulin sensitivity because of an increase in glucose uptake and due to the proteins involved in transporting glucose, are more active and expressed. This was first shown in a study looking at the effect of exercise in rats on the expression and activity of these proteins. In this experiment, one group of rats was put through bouts of exercises to see how they compared to a group of sedentary rats. In the end, the experiment found that the group of rats that exercised had an increase in insulin sensitivity due to this increase in activation and expression of these proteins.

What does this mean for you?

Besides maintaining a healthy diet and low body fat, you should perform anaerobic exercise to increase insulin sensitivity. Whether you would like to lift weights or go do some sprints, you should do some form of anaerobic exercise on a regular basis. Long-term exercise can result in a sustained increase in insulin sensitivity to prevent and treat insulin resistance. This can prevent and treat many health issues associated with a decreased sensitivity to insulin including type II diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If that is not enough to get you to exercise, keep in mind, exercise will also make you look much better at the beach.


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