60 Minutes of Exercise Can Improve Insulin Resistance 25%

60 minutes of daily exercise can improve your insulin resistance by 25%. 120 minutes of exercise can improve it by 50%. If you’re looking to avoid metabolic diseases, get up and start moving.

In an article earlier I looked at metabolic flexibility. In particular the article focused on the metabolic inflexibility caused insulin resistance. I made some basic recommendations on how to improve one’s metabolic flexibility, but I thought I’d go into greater depth looking at insulin resistance itself.

It’s important to give your body the ability to react favorably to the things you eat, but the presence of insulin resistance may be the most substantial way to curtail your results in the gym and to negatively impact your health. It’s common sense and common knowledge these days to have good dietary habits and to avoid excessive sugar intake to prevent metabolic diseases like diabetes. Most people are already aware that reducing body fat can help the symptoms of diabetes as well. Yet despite this, diseases like diabetes are on the rise. Metabolic diseases can make your life and maintaining good health a challenge. But how does exercise influence your insulin resistance?

A recent study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity looked at how insulin sensitivity is mediated by exercise. To do this, they had an uphill climb to eliminate the confounding variables – those other aspects of health and behavior that might cloud the results. They considered, but factored out cardio fitness, body fat, sex, age, and smoking status from the results to obtain the real answers.

They found that moderate to vigorous daily activity was more important than actual cardiorespiratory fitness level for impacting insulin resistance. Just getting out there and exercising on a regular basis will lower insulin resistance, and thus improve your health by reducing metabolic disease. The results also suggest the amount of time spent exercising may be an important part of improving the body’s response to glucose. Insulin resistance was improved by 25% going from no exercise to 60 minutes of exercise per day. It improved 50% from no exercise to 120 minutes of exercise. In addition to the more vigorous types of exercise, there was a trend for higher insulin sensitivity even doing light exercise such as walking, but not a significant one. It could be that the stimulus for improved glucose metabolism requires glucose utilization.

It’s probably no surprise to the readers of Breaking Muscle that exercising daily is important for health, but it can help motivate when you know some of the reasons why. If you’ve been trying to improve your health or get someone else motivated to exercise on a regular basis, solid research like this is a good resource. Also, good insulin sensitivity will help you achieve greater results in the gym, so it’s important even for people already fit and looking to get even more fit. Get out there, exercise often and, if you are at risk for or suffering from metabolic diseases, long distance work may be of great benefit to you.


1. Rachael Nelson, et. al., “Daily physical activity predicts degree of insulin resistance: a cross-sectional observational study using the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:10

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