Type 1 diabetes: exercise and hypoglycemia

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Jun;32(3):576-82. doi: 10.1139/H07-025.


The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial demonstrated that tight control of diabetes management greatly reduces the risk of microvascular complications of diabetes. Unfortunately, tight control of blood glucose can also result in hypoglycemia, especially in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). It is now widely recognized that antecedent hypoglycemia can blunt neuroendocrine, autonomic nervous system (ANS), and metabolic counterregulatory responses to subsequent hypoglycemia. Thus, blunted counterregulatory defenses against falling plasma glucose levels are a major risk factor for hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. This risk is also complicated by a difference in responses between males and females. Because of the qualitative similarity of neuroendocrine, ANS, and metabolic responses to hypoglycemia and exercise, we developed studies to determine whether neuroendocrine and ANS counterregulatory dysfunction play a role in the pathogenesis of exercise-related hypoglycemia in T1DM. Results from these studies have shown that neuroendocrine (catecholamine and glucagon), ANS (muscle sympathetic nerve activity), and metabolic (lipolysis and glucose kinetics) responses are blunted during exercise after antecedent hypoglycemia, and that there is a sexual dimorphism in responses. Similarly, antecedent episodes of exercise can blunt counterregulatory responses during subsequent hypoglycemia, thereby creating reciprocal feed-forward vicious cycles that increase the risk of hypoglycemia during either stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / therapy
  • Exercise* / physiology
  • Female
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia* / etiology
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Insulin
  • Glucose