Even small amounts of exercise could be enough to help reduce insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
The US study sheds doubt on previous findings which had suggested that enhancing the small cell structures called mitochondria, which turn glucose and fats into energy, could help alleviate some symptoms associated with a high-calorie diet.
The research team from the University of Arkansas said the amount of mitochondria was not directly affected by the amount of exercise carried out.
Much research has been carried out to try to understand the reasons why high-calorie diets contribute to insulin resistance. To date, however, the mechanism is still not fully understood.
The Integrative Muscle Metabolism Laboratory team, which was led by Megan E. Rosa-Caldwell, used mice in the study to investigate whether exercise affected mitochondria levels and insulin resistance.
One group of mice were genetically modified to have a higher quantity of mitochondria. These mice were compared to wild type mice with normal levels of mitochondria. Both groups of mice were given a high-calorie diet to induce insulin resistance.
Each group of mice were divided into further groups so that half were able to exercise and other half had to stay sedentary.
The findings showed that exercise provided similar health benefits against insulin resistance regardless of mitochondria levels.
The researchers hypothesise that physical activity may help remove damaged cellular material and improve the quality of the mitochondria which might then help prevent insulin resistance. However, this idea would need to be tested with further research.
The researchers are keen to understand more about the cellular processes which may increase or decrease insulin resistance as it may help to understand which forms of exercise regimens work best for battling insulin resistance.
Ms Rosa-Caldwell said: “For now, physical activity is the greatest protectio, but further research may enable us to prevent and treat insulin resistance, and subsequent diabetes, more effectively.”

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