Drop Some Knowledge #5: Insulin-Like Effects of Exercise

[Just to let you know, for all “Drop Some Knowledge” posts, I encourage you to share your knowledge or experiences on whatever subject I discuss. I am in no way an expert, so I want you to drop some knowledge, too!]

DIABEETUS. INSULIN resistance. Blood SUGAR levels. We kind of hear all of these terms thrown around.

I have been watching the old seasons of the Biggest Loser (mostly to see what not to do as a trainer/coach, all with my sports psychology goggles on). They talk about how exercise can help reverse the effects of diabetes (type 2).

True or false?

Well let’s first go to the basics of how insulin works.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It is stimulated by a rise in blood glucose levels:


Mmmmm, carbs… which means sugars… which means insulin is put to work! It drives glucose into cells. Insulin will cause a transporter within the cells to move a transporter from the cytoplasm to the cell membrane (GLUT-4 in muscle cells) so that the glucose molecules can be taken up by the cells and the glucose in the blood will go down.


The black circles are glucose molecules, the red thing is the insulin receptor, the yellow triangles are insulin, and the green box is the glucose transporter (GLUT). I drew that for you in 1.5 minutes. I KNOW, it looks like I spend at least 5 minutes, right?

When you exercise though, insulin production goes DOWN. Then what happens to our blood glucose levels? How about when we take in GU and electrolyte drinks… how do we take those sugars into our cells for energy??

Well interestingly, muscle contractions can cause the GLUT to travel to the cell membrane without the presence of insulin. Muscle contractions have an insulin-like effect. WOW! So when doctors are saying that people with diabetes need to exercise? Or on the Biggest Loser when you see the contestants weight lifting all the time (though probably not recommended because a lot of them get injured a lot, too), and then the doctor guy tells them that they reversed their diabetes or have it under control? I guess it can happen.

Again, I’m no expert, and you shouldn’t go against doctor’s orders in taking certain medications… but if your doctor has not brought up exercise as part of your treatment, that can be something to bring up next time. I mean, c’mon. There’s nothing better than the feeling you get after a tough workout!


I think there’s also the misconception that only people who are overweight have wacky, uncontrolled blood sugar levels. NOT SO! In fact, some of the groups who have the highest risk of diabetes are API (Asian Pacific Islander). Why? Well, many are of normal weight and BMI, but with a consumption of rice all the time (and other things that I won’t get into right now), API’s can actually be at a high risk for developing diabetes and go untested.

I know several API’s who have diabetes and none of them are overweight ! In fact, some of them are super skinny and don’t work out at all. So please, be sure to get tested… you don’t want wait to find out on the day when your kidneys fail. That would probably ruin your day.

And whether you exercise regularly or not, this is just another added incentive and bonus reason for why you should be working out! Don’t you love all the perks?


By the way, for a fantastic blog where the writer has been able to create a ministry through health education, check out New Creation Ministries! (unrelated to my church, New Creation UMC, hehe). Ellie is a certified nutrition counselor! She drops a bunch of knowledge on every one of her posts 😀


I did not run yesterday… I missed a lot of my runs… but I have Spring Break next week! So I’ll enjoy the time with lots of running!

What are you plans for the weekend?

Can you drop some knowledge for me on this topic? I’d love to learn more 🙂


3 responses to “Drop Some Knowledge #5: Insulin-Like Effects of Exercise

  1. I have absolutely no knowledge on this topic which made it a awesome read! I learned something new 🙂 I’m hoping to get outside for a run today since it’s a whopping 35 degrees and NO SNOW in Chicago wooooo!

    • Hooray for no snow and running outdoors! (My friend visited and she said all of the cars got buried by snow every day! That’s a lot of snow!).
      Glad you were able to learn a bit from the post 🙂

  2. Pingback: Drop Some Knowledge #8: Postural and Mechanical Loading on Bones/Ligaments | blessed with thunder thighs·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s