It is not known whether the beneficial effects of exercise training on insulin sensitivity are due to changes in hepatic and peripheral insulin sensitivity or whether the changes in insulin sensitivity can be explained by adaptive changes in fatty acid metabolism, changes in visceral fat or changes in liver and muscle triacylglycerol content. We investigated the effects of 6 weeks of supervised exercise in sedentary men on these variables.
We randomised 17 sedentary overweight male subjects (age 50 +/- 2.6 years, BMI 27.6 +/- 0.5 kg/m(2)) to a 6-week exercise programme (n = 10) or control group (n = 7). The insulin sensitivity of palmitic acid production rate (Ra), glycerol Ra, endogenous glucose Ra (EGP), glucose uptake and glucose metabolic clearance rate were measured at 0 and 6 weeks with a two-step hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamp [step 1, 0.3 (low dose); step 2, 1.5 (high dose) mU kg(-1) min(-1)]. In the exercise group subjects were studied >72 h after the last training session. Liver and skeletal muscle triacylglycerol content was measured by magnetic resonance spectroscopy and visceral adipose tissue by cross-sectional computer tomography scanning.
After 6 weeks, fasting glycerol, palmitic acid Ra (p = 0.003, p = 0.042) and NEFA concentration (p = 0.005) were decreased in the exercise group with no change in the control group. The effects of low-dose insulin on EGP and of high-dose insulin on glucose uptake and metabolic clearance rate were enhanced in the exercise group but not in the control group (p = 0.026; p = 0.007 and p = 0.04). There was no change in muscle triacylglycerol and liver fat in either group.
Decreased availability of circulating NEFA may contribute to the observed improvement in the insulin sensitivity of EGP and glucose uptake following 6 weeks of moderate exercise.