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How Does Regular Endurance Exercise Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights

If you’re one of the 37 million Americans diagnosed with type II diabetes, you probably want solutions to help you reduce your insulin dependence, if you take insulin, or prevent your condition from worsening. 

Thankfully, although approximately one in 10 people in the United States suffer from type II diabetes, there’s a lot we can do to help manage it and even reduce the risk of developing it in the first place. 

Lifestyle habits can be a challenge, especially when they involve incorporating a new workout routine into our already hectic schedules. Today, let’s look at the data behind endurance exercise and its impact on insulin resistance. We’ll also explore how cellular health is foundational in supporting bodies that use insulin efficiently. 

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disorder, type 2 diabetes can develop over time. 

Initially, a person may be insulin resistant or prediabetic. Later, the pre-diabetes may progress into type 2 diabetes. 

Everyone has sugar in their blood — this sugar, called glucose, is broken down from the foods we eat and then directed to our cells for energy. People with type 2 diabetes can’t process this glucose efficiently, and there are two parts to the problem: 

  1. The pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. Normally, the pancreas makes adequate insulin to manage the glucose in your bloodstream. However, if you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to move the glucose out of your blood, resulting in a blood sugar level that is too high. 

  2. Cells don’t take up insulin properly. Our cells use the glucose that insulin carries to them to produce energy. If you have type 2 diabetes, however, your cells have become insulin resistant, which means they don’t take up glucose as they should.

Because the pancreas and the cells can’t keep up with the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, the person with type 2 diabetes has blood sugar levels that are too high. Often, a prescription for injectable insulin is given. 

What Are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes may not have noticeable symptoms. You can have type 2 diabetes and feel the same as you usually do, so a blood test is often needed to determine whether or not you have it. 

There are also common symptoms that can be a sign of type 2 diabetes: 

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Tingling and numbness in hands and feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing of sores
  • Frequent infections 

You might experience several of these symptoms, or none of them, so it’s important to have a blood test to help determine whether you have type 2 diabetes. 

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

The underlying cause of slow pancreatic insulin production and inefficient cellular glucose intake is often linked to obesity and inactivity. These key factors are two of the most common reasons that a person develops type 2 diabetes. 

Genetics also plays a role in whether or not you will develop insulin resistance. If one or both of your parents has or had type 2 diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing it. 

Additionally, some other medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect insulin sensitivity and increase an individual’s risk for also developing type 2 diabetes. 

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

Having diabetes isn’t usually a standalone condition. In fact, in people who have type 2 diabetes, there is a two to three-fold increase in the occurrence of heart attack and stroke over people who do not have diabetes. 

Being a diabetic means you are at a higher risk of developing blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, and the diseases and conditions that make up metabolic syndrome. 

Metabolic syndrome is the term given to a cluster of illnesses that are often age-related and accompany type 2 diabetes. They include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and excess weight around the midsection called visceral fat. Together, these conditions place you at a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

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How Does Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes? 

If two of the main reasons why a person might develop type 2 diabetes are inactivity and obesity, it makes sense that becoming more active is a good step towards improving diabetic health. 

What Is Endurance Exercise?

Exercise is categorized into two broad categories: cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. Endurance exercise is a form of cardiovascular exercise. 

Cardiovascular endurance training keeps your heart pumping over longer periods of time. This supports your heart, improves your vascular health, lowers your blood pressure, and releases endorphins. 

Alternatively, resistance training involves moving weight or using resistance to build muscle, build strong bones, and improve mobility. 

Both endurance exercise and resistance training can provide benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

What Are the Benefits of Exercise for People With Type 2 Diabetes?

Although everyone can benefit from exercise, it’s really important for people who are at risk of developing insulin resistance or who have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

Here’s why endurance exercise helps reduce your risk of developing diabetes and improve your blood sugar levels if you already have it.

Exercise Reduces Blood Glucose Levels

Exercise triggers your cells to take up more glucose from the blood to burn for energy. This naturally lowers your blood sugar levels by sending the glucose to cells in the muscles and organs that need it to fuel your workout. 

Exercise Builds Muscle

Muscle cells require more glucose. When we eat, most of the glucose in our bloodstream is carried to these cells to support our bodies’ energy needs. If you don’t have enough muscle, there’s nowhere for the glucose in your blood to go. 

Building muscle helps give the glucose in your blood a home. 

Additionally, muscles require even more glucose when you are exercising. When you exercise, your muscle cells need to make more ATP, a molecule that powers the cells. Muscle cells need glucose to make ATP. This means that from the moment you begin working out, your muscle cells start taking up more of the glucose in your bloodstream. 

Want to find out more about how cells create energy? Check out our blog on cellular respiration. 

Exercising Helps With Weight Loss

Carrying excess weight is one of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet can help you lose weight and lower A1C levels. Your A1C level is a measure of your blood sugar based on a three-month average. 

Endurance Work Helps Reduce Visceral Fat

The fat we keep around our midsection is closely linked with type 2 diabetes and a myriad of other health problems. This fat is particularly dangerous because it can go undetected deep within the skin, wrapping around organs. 

Visceral fat also releases hormones that interfere with how the body processes glucose. Exercise helps reduce visceral fat, keeping you healthier and lowering your risk of developing negative health markers often associated with it. 

Exercise Helps Reduces Complications From Type 2 Diabetes 

The complications that can arise from type 2 diabetes are serious, and exercise can help reduce the risk of developing them. Exercise builds strong bones, helps improve vascular health, encourages joint mobility, and even helps support proper nerve function. 

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

You don’t have to devote much time to reap the benefits of moderate endurance exercise. Just 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week may be enough to reduce insulin dependency in type 2 diabetics. 

This exercise can be split up into two to three sessions over a span of days. However, it’s suggested that you not allow more than two days in between workouts.

How Are Cellular Health and Type 2 Diabetes Related?

Because type 2 diabetes involves the health of your cells and their ability to function properly and take in glucose, it’s important to understand why our cells might not be healthy. 

Cells decline as we get older. Their protective membranes weaken, the mitochondria that produce their energy slow down, and they lose their ability to communicate with one another. Sometimes, our cells die before they should. 

When our cellular health declines, our bodies eventually decline too, so it’s important to take care of our cells especially as we get older. 

How One Fatty Acid in Particular Can Help

Cells need support, and research shows that one fatty acid in particular may be a solution for helping our cells age healthfully. C15:0, also known as pentadecanoic acid, is an odd-chain, essential saturated fatty acid that dives into your cells and helps them in several important ways:*

  1. Glucose homeostasis support. By activating special receptors called PPARs, C15:0 helps our cells communicate, supporting balance and everyday biological processes in our bodies, including glucose homeostasis.
  2. Cell membrane support. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes to help fortify them and keep them strong. 
  3. Increased mitochondrial function. C15:0 has been shown to improve our cells’ mitochondrial function by up to 45%. 

C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole-fat dairy products, as well as some plants and fish. As a society, we’ve steadily decreased our dietary intake of C15:0 over time, partly due to dietary guidelines published in the 1970’s, which recommended decreasing our intake of all fats, especially saturated fats. We have further decreased our dietary intake of this essential fatty acid switching to plant-based milks, most of which contain no C15:0. We also now know that our natural C15:0 levels decline with age, all of which suggest that supplementation with C15:0 is needed for us to maintain our health. 

A solution? A pure, vegan-friendly form of C15:0: fatty15.

With just one capsule a day, you can provide support to your body at the cellular level, including the cells and signaling receptors that help keep blood glucose levels in check.*

Fatty15: The Easy Way To Support Cells

Cells that are not healthy results in a body that is not healthy. You can support your cells with fatty15, the once-a-day, vegan-friendly, pure version of C15:0.*

Just one capsule per day can help you make aging your ally*. The result? A healthier body and mind—for now and for later



Type 2 Diabetes | CDC

Type 2 diabetes - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Type 2 Diabetes: What is It, Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatments | Cleveland Clinic

Diabetes | WHO.intLifestyle Management | Diabetes Care

Skeletal Muscle Glucose Uptake During Exercise: How is it Regulated? | Physiology Journals

How Exercise Helps Prevent and Manage Type 2 Diabetes | Everyday Health

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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