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Exercise Boosts Function of Insulin-Making Cells

A week’s worth of exercise for sedentary older people who are at risk of developing diabetes showed significant improvement in the function of their insulin-making beta cells, said researchers from the University of Michigan.

According to Drs. Cathie J. Bloem and Annette M. Chang, beta cell function declines with age, although the reason behind it is still unknown. They also add that aging makes the body become less sensitive to the blood sugar-regulating effects of insulin, which may cause impaired insulin secretion.

To investigate how exercise will affect beta cell function, Drs. Bloem and Chang studied the exercise performance of 12 sedentary individuals aged 60 and older, who were asked to perform an hour-long workout everyday for a week. Exercises included using the treadmill, stationery bike, and cross-training machine, all of which required participants to work out at 60 to 70 percent of their heart rate capacity.

After a week, participants’ insulin sensitivity had an average increase of 53 percent, while the disposition index (a measure of beta cell function) had increased by 28 percent. There were also no changes in the participants’ fat mass, levels of fat in the blood, or other factors that may explain how exercise affects beta cells.

“Longer-term exercise training studies are required and are currently in progress to evaluate further exercise training effects on beta cell function in age-related glucose tolerance,” noted the researchers.

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