Navigate / search

Why exercise lowers blood sugar… The GLUT 4 Transporter


As if I needed to give you another reason to love exercise. I know, many of you out there do not like exercising and see it as a chore or just another thing to cross off the old to do list. I know you’ve read many headlines about why exercise is healthy for weight management, heart health, mental health, and detoxification. But I’d like to give you JUST ONE MORE REASON to exercise today because this one you may not have heard yet. Blood sugar control. Studies have found that exercise is not only great for preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, but that it also helps people who currently have the diagnosis. And here’s why…

There is a happy medium that your blood needs for it’s sugar content. Too little sugar and you feel hungry and lethargic. HANGRY if you will (get it? Hungry + Angry). Too much blood sugar and your vascular system can be become inflamed which can lead to vascular and organ damage. Not to mention the fact that your cells are by enlarge not getting the fuel needed to function.  In reviewing one of my favorite articles that we studied in nutrition school I am refreshed on the mechanism of the GLUT-4 transporter. What is the GLUT-4 transporter you might ask? Well it is an intercellular transport protein that’s main purpose is to transport glucose from outside your cell membrane (the blood) and to bring it inside the cell membrane (where it should be!). Your cells actually have several transport proteins for glucose entry. However, many of them depend on insulin. Which in the case of diabetes, is not very available or your cells are resistant to it’s actions altogether. What’s a cell to do??!! Well one option that is helpful is the prescription medicines available for those with type II diabetes which are a good start. Although some GLUT transporters (glucose transporter proteins) rely on insulin, the GLUT-4 transport protein responds to also EXERCISE! That’s right people. This wild little transport protein answers to your body’s response to muscle contraction. When you exercise your skeletal muscle cells release all sorts of chemicals in response to muscle contraction and these chemicals in skeletal muscles have been found to upregulate the GLUT-4 transport proteins. The GLUT-4s when signaled by exercise then travel to the cell membrane surface where they can dock and accept a glucose molecule into the cell.

What is even more good news is that science has found there to be no difference in the amount of GLUT-4 transport proteins in skeletal muscle cells between healthy individuals and those who are either obese or have type II diabetes. So there is no noticible deficit of this needed molecule even in individuals who are challenged with blood sugar control issues. All the more reason to exercise right? The result is a net rise in cellular uptake of glucose. Any form of exercise counts even walking. Due to this interesting finding it is reasonable to consider a short walk if you have time after a meal. Since post meal time is when blood  sugars typically increase a good time to take advantage of your skeletal muscle GLUT-4 action is right then. Not to mention the fact that it is a great way to ease stress.

Have a healthy day, hopefully with some exercise 🙂



Sheherd P, Kahn B. Glucose Transporters and Insulin Action. New England Journal of Medicine. 1999; 341 (4): 248-257