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Exercising Benefits in Diabetes

Dr. Laurie Goodyear of Joslin Diabetes Center

Laurie Goodyear, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How does exercise help treat type 2 diabetes?

“Exercise has profound effects throughout the body,” points out Laurie Goodyear, Ph.D. “One effect is that exercise can lower blood glucose concentrations, in part by increasing glucose uptake into skeletal muscles.”

“Another important effect,” she says, “is that in the hours after exercise, muscles are more sensitive to the actions of insulin, which can result in a lowering of insulin concentrations. Those effects are very desirable for people with type 2 diabetes.”

Dr. Goodyear’s lab is working to understand the connections between the beneficial effects of exercise and diabetes by studying the molecular mechanisms that regulate the signals that stimulate glucose uptake into cells. Proteins that have a main function in the regulation of glucose transport can be targets in the development of pharmaceutical therapies for type 2 diabetes.

The Goodyear lab has demonstrated that a protein called AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK) is increased in people when they exercise and has an important role in metabolic regulation in many types of cells throughout the body, including muscle, heart and fat cells.

“Work we’ve done in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Merck showed that metformin, which is probably the number one diabetes drug in the world, works through this AMPK mechanism that exercise activates,” adds Dr. Goodyear. “So research on exercise has led to improved understanding of how a major drug works. Now many pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop AMP activators for diabetes, some with success.”

In other work, Dr. Goodyear’s studies focus on proteins related to AMPK that are triggered by exercise to improve glucose uptake. For one project, her lab has found a way to record images of the movement of crucial proteins that transport glucose in contracting muscles of living mice.

“We’re also doing studies on adaptations to exercise and exercise training,” she says. “If you train a human or animal to exercise, there are chronic adaptations that occur in the muscle and throughout other parts of the body, and we investigate some of these effects. The effects that occur in skeletal muscle make it better able to perform work. There also are effects on the heart, fat cells and throughout the whole body that are very important to overall health.”

Laurie Goodyear, Ph.D. of Joslin Diabetes Center

Page last updated: September 23, 2019