Researchers uncover strong link between physical activity and glucose regulation

People who lead inactive lifestyles are known to be at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, a new study may help explain why this is and what individuals can do to minimize their chances of becoming diabetic.

Researchers from the University of Missouri showed that decreasing physical activity - even for relatively short periods of time - changes the way the body responds to the sugar in food. This produces potentially dangerous increases in glucose levels following meals.

For the study, which was published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the researchers asked a group of participants to reduce their daily activity levels by about one half for a period of three days. During this time, the scientists analyzed individuals’ blood sugar levels after they ate.

The results showed that glucose levels were about twice as high in the participants after they decreased their physical activity. However, the researchers also found that individuals’ post-meal blood sugar levels began to return to normal ranges after they were allowed to become active again.

John Thyfault, who led the investigation, said the results show that exercise has a profound impact on the way the body handles sugar consumption, and that it may be one of the strongest determinants in a person’s metabolic health.

"We now have evidence that physical activity is an important part of the daily maintenance of glucose levels," he said said. "Even in the short term, reducing daily activity and ceasing regular exercise causes acute changes in the body associated with diabetes that can occur before weight gain and the development of obesity."