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.