Effects of exercise on glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Brief review and some preliminary results

Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1986;711:55-65. doi: 10.1111/j.0954-6820.1986.tb08932.x.


With aging, glucose tolerance (GT) declines, plasma insulin concentration increases, and sensitivity to the action of insulin declines. Evidence is accumulating that this decline in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity can be prevented by regularly performed vigorous exercise. Preliminary results are presented in this paper showing that prolonged, strenuous and frequent exercise can also completely normalize GT by decreasing resistance to insulin in some patients with mild non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and in some individuals with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). Exercise appears to be effective in normalizing GT only in patients who still have an adequate capacity to secrete insulin, and in whom insulin resistance is the major cause for abnormal GT. The amount of exercise required to normalize GT in such patients appears to be in the range of 25 to 35 km per week of running, or a comparable amount of another form of exercise, performed on a regular basis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy