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Metformin with Exercise

By Lisa M. Wolfe ; Updated August 14, 2017

Diabetics suffering from uncontrolled blood sugar, are on a quest for the most helpful combination of medication, diet and exercise. Metformin is one medication used to control blood sugar. Exercise is another option to help regulate the glucose -- or sugar -- levels of the body. Combined, metformin and exercise create a powerful weapon against out-of-control sugar levels.


Controlling glucose levels is the most important concern for a diabetic. When you have diabetes, your body does not use insulin effectively. Insulin's purpose is to bind with sugar molecules and transport them into the cells for energy. In a diabetic, excess sugar is found in the bloodstream due to insulin's inefficiency. Metformin was approved in 1994 to help a diabetic's system decrease the amount of sugar made in the liver and decrease the amount of sugar absorbed in the intestines. This is beneficial because excess sugar levels can lead to kidney damage, blindness or heart disease.


Another option for controlling sugar levels is exercise. All types of exercise will lead to health gains. Both aerobic, which includes walking, running and swimming, and anaerobic, which includes strength training, are beneficial in reducing blood-sugar levels. Aerobic exercise will also strengthen your heart, which is a protection against heart disease. Strength training trains your muscle cells to use glucose more efficiently.

Type 2 Diabetes

The effects of exercise combined with metformin were tested in mice with type 2 diabetes. "Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental" magazine reported on the 2001 study that gave the mice daily doses of metformin and daily swimming sessions. Some mice were only swimming, some only taking medication and others were a control group. The results found that exercise or medication reduced overall blood-glucose levels. Combining the two did not change the reduction level. Exercise alone enhanced the storage of glucose in the muscle tissue and helped to maintain the lowered sugar levels. The researchers suggested that combining medication and exercise work to enhance the positive effects.


In 2004, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston determined the value of metformin with exercise in HIV-infected patients. "AIDS" magazine reported on this three-month study. Patients exercised three times a week for one hour of aerobic and strength training. Subjects showed a decrease in hip-to-waist measurement, lowered blood pressure, increased leg-muscle size, improved exercise performance and a lowering in fasting-insulin levels.


Always speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Choose activities you enjoy and ones that you will continuously do. Consistency is the key, so make exercise a part of your daily life. Work out at a moderate level that you can maintain for 30 minutes. Wear supportive shoes during exercise. Have a support group or friend work out with you to help your motivation and keep you accountable.

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