People with high blood sugar levels respond differently to exercise, new study finds. (Photo: Colourbox)
People with high blood sugar levels respond differently to exercise, new study finds. (Photo: Colourbox)

Exercise does not work wonders for everyone

Some people can lose weight and gain muscle without improving their ability to regulate blood sugar, new study reveals.

Published

For some people, exercise has no effect on their metabolism. Though they may lose weight and gain muscle from exercising, their body’s ability to convert blood sugar – a central function in metabolism – does not improve.

”We have found that the poorer a person’s blood sugar control is before exercising, the harder it is to improve that person’s ability to convert blood sugar,” says Thomas Solomon, a PhD at the Centre for inflammation and Metabolism at the Copenhagen University Hospital.

Study documents great individual differences

Solomon headed a study of how 105 participants with either impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes responded to moderate exercise over a three-month period.

The results revealed that those who started with average blood sugar levels found it easier to improve their blood sugar control than those who started out with high blood sugar levels.

It has been known for a long time that these two groups, on average, could improve their blood sugar regulation by exercising, but this is the first documentation that this is much harder for some than for others.

Thomas Solomon

”It has been known for a long time that these two groups, on average, could improve their blood sugar regulation by exercising, but this is the first documentation that this is much harder for some than for others,” says Solomon.

However, all participants in the study lost weight, he adds, which in itself should be reason enough for people to continue exercising.

Findings pave way for prevention

Impaired glucose tolerance is considered as a precursor to diabetes. People with reduced glucose tolerance have abnormal blood sugar regulation, though not so damaged as to require treatment.
Some 15 percent of 55-year-olds have impaired glucose tolerance as a result of overweight and a lack of exercise, and this figure is on the rise.

About a third of those with impaired glucose tolerance develop diabetes within ten years.

”Our main point is that the ’one size fits all’ model isn’t as great as we may have thought,” says the researcher.

Our main point is that the ’one size fits all’ model isn’t as great as we may have thought. There are great individual differences in how we respond to exercise. Our findings also underline the importance of identifying these so-called non-responders while they can still benefit from exercise.

Thomas Solomon

“There are great individual differences in how we respond to exercise. Our findings also underline the importance of identifying these so-called non-responders while they can still benefit from exercise.”

There is a strong correlation between overweight and a low metabolism, but this study shows that weight loss does not guarantee an improvement in the blood sugar regulation.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

Translated by: Dann Vinther

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