The Effect of Handcycle Ergometer Exercise on Glucose Tolerance in Ambulatory and Non-Ambulatory Adolescents

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
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Whole body or leg exercise before a meal can increase insulin sensitivity, but it is unclear whether the same can occur with upper body exercise since a smaller muscle mass is activated. We measured the impact of a single session of handcycle exercise on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.


Nonambulatory (Non-Amb) adolescents with spina bifida or cerebral palsy (4F/3M), or ambulatory peers (Control, 4F/7M) completed 2 glucose tolerance tests on separate days, preceded by either rest or a 35-min bout of moderate-to-vigorous intermittent handcycle exercise.


The Non-Amb group had higher body fat (mean ± SD: 38 ± 12%, Control: 24 ± 9, p = .041) but similar VO2peak (17.7 ± 6.1 ml/kg/min, Control: 21.1 ± 7.9). Fasting glucose and insulin were normal for all participants. Compared with the rest trial, exercise resulted in a reduction in glucose area under the curve (11%, p = .008) without a significant group x trial interaction and no difference in the magnitude of change between groups. Insulin sensitivity was increased 16% (p = .028) by exercise in the Control group but was not significantly changed in the Non-Amb group.


A single bout of handcycle exercise improves glucose tolerance in adolescents with and without mobility limitations and could therefore help maintain or improve metabolic health.

Short and Teague are with Dept. of Pediatrics, Section of Diabetes & Endocrinology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Klein, Malm-Buatsi, and Frimberger are with the Dept. of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK.

Address author correspondence to Kevin R. Short at