Physical training and insulin sensitivity

Diabetes Metab Rev. 1986;1(4):445-81. doi: 10.1002/dmr.5610010407.


In conclusion, a large body of available evidence indicates that the degree of physical conditioning is an important determinant of insulin sensitivity and overall glucose tolerance. Both acute exercise and chronic physical training are associated with enhanced disposal of a glucose load. Conversely, physical inactivity leads to a deterioration in glucose tolerance. The primary tissue responsible for accelerated glucose disposal following exercise is muscle. After an acute bout of exercise, enhanced glucose transport and augmented glycogen synthesis are largely responsible for the improvement in glucose tolerance. The beneficial effects of chronic physical training on glucose metabolism appear to be explained by multiple factors, including increased muscle mass, augmented muscle blood flow and capillary area, enhanced mitochondrial oxidative enzyme capacity, and activation of the glucose transport system. Despite these well-documented effects of training on glucose metabolism, the precise role of exercise in the treatment of diabetic patients remains to be established. In insulin-dependent (type I) diabetic individuals, acute exercise has been shown to be a helpful adjunct in establishing good glycemic control. However, the role of acute exercise in helping to smooth out glycemic control in non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetic patients has received little attention. The role of chronic physical training in the treatment of both insulin-dependent (type I) and non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetic individuals remains to be established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Physical Education and Training*


  • Insulin
  • Glycogen
  • Glucose