Duke University LogoAccording to study experts at Duke University Medical Center, moderate intensity exercise seems to improve pancreatic function more in contrast to vigorous exercise. In addition, it may possibly reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes.

It is believed that when the body is unable to process insulin, it leads to diabetes. Insulin is known to be a hormone created by the pancreas in order to control blood sugar levels. This study seems to show that exercise improves the body’s ability to use insulin. However, little is known about how exercise could possibly affect the beta cells in the pancreas which release the insulin.

Lead author of the study, Cris Slentz, Ph.D., and a scientist at Duke University Medical Center said that, “Diabetes originates from insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction. We know that exercise improves insulin sensitivity (how well insulin works in the body), but the effect of exercise intensity on insulin secretion (pancreas function) is the other piece of this puzzle that needed to be explored.”

Slentz further stated that, “While these findings may seem counterintuitive, we know that moderate exercise mobilizes the body to burn more fat, which may be the mechanism that helps the pancreas work more efficiently. Vigorous exercise requires the body to burn more carbohydrates and not as much fat.”

Supposedly, inactive, overweight and obese people are usually resistant to insulin. It was noted that, however, their bodies try to maintain a normal blood sugar level by having the pancreas produce more insulin. In order to better understand why many people in this group seem to develop type 2 diabetes, the expert’s team examined how the beta cells respond to varying intensities of exercise.

“Diabetes is an exercise deficiency disease but little research has been conducted to learn what level of exertion is optimal for regulating glucose levels. Our findings indicate that moderate intensity exercise appears to be better at improving pancreatic function and as a result, may be better at preventing the progression to diabetes,” elucidates Slentz.

The study was believed to have included more than 230 sedentary, overweight people who were between 40 to 65 years of age. Also, these participants were randomly placed in a control group or one of three 8-month exercise programs. Apparently, these programs included a low exercise amount at moderate intensity, low exercise amount at high intensity which was equal to 10 miles per week or a high amount of exercise at high intensity that was equal to 17 miles per week.

Exercises were believed to have been conducted on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Additionally, all study participants were monitored in order to accomplish a target heart rate and level of oxygen consumption when active.

The study experts found that the equivalent of walking 10 miles per week considerably seemed to have improved how the pancreas functions more as compared to doing the same amount of exercise at a vigorous intensity. Furthermore, walking 10 miles per week appears to have been better than exercising vigorously for the equivalent of 17 miles per week.

The findings of the study also revealed that all three exercise programs seemed to show improvements in insulin sensitivity. However, the moderate-intensity group appears to have demonstrated major improvement in pancreas function. Simultaneously, the control group which did not exercise was noted to have a considerable increase in blood sugar levels thereby putting them at greater risk for developing diabetes.

It was observed that the latest findings are an analysis from a study called STRRIDE (Studies of a Targeted Risk Reduction Intervention through Defined Exercise). STRRIDE is believed to be examining the effects of varying amounts and intensity of exercise on middle-aged, overweight men and women.

Moreover, the findings revealed that even a modest amount of brisk walking weekly appears to be enough to trim waistlines and reduce the chances of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome seems to be an increasingly frequent condition linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The study experts caution that the findings need to be further analyzed through additional investigation conducted over longer periods of time.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Diabetes Care.