High Blood Sugar Levels May Be Standing In The Way Of Your Cardio Goals


Physical exercise

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D.,Founder


Aerobic activities such as running, cycling and jumping rope are challenging. However, the more you do them, the better you usually get. You don’t have to be a marathon biker or run a mile in seven minutes or less to benefit from aerobic exercise. You can make aerobic exercise (also called cardio) a habit and make it feel like less daunting every time you do it. It has been suggested that you do 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.

But there may be something standing in the way of helping you reach your cardio goals. In other words, there may be something keeping you from reaping the full benefits of all the aerobic exercise you may be doing. 

And this 'thing' may be hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). This condition, of course, is associated with prediabetes and diabetes. A leading cause of hyperglycemia is a ‘Western diet,’ which is a diet high in sugar and saturated fat (Read more about fats here).

A recent study involving mice suggested that mice with high blood sugar were not able to improve their aerobic exercise capacity compared to mice with lower blood sugar levels. To make the mice hyperglycemic, some were fed a diet high in sugar and saturated fat (Western diet). Some of the mice were also modified to produce less insulin, which caused an increase in blood sugar levels to the mice on the Western diet. The remaining mice were not fed a diet to cause hyperglycemia or altered. 

Having a normal body weight does not mean that you are in the clear.

It’s important to note that the mice that were altered to produce less insulin maintained a normal body weight but still exhibited the same blood sugar levels as the mice who were fed a poor diet and overweight (consuming the Western diet did cause some weight gain).

“In both hyperglycemic groups, animals ran around 500 kilometers over the course of the study but, on average, failed to improve their aerobic exercise capacity compared to mice with lower blood sugar levels, Lessard [one of the leads on the study says,” according to this Medical Xpress report discussing the study.

And this all may have to do with the way that muscle responds in a hyperglycemic body.

“Muscle tissue can remodel itself, which is one reason why exercise becomes easier when we do it regularly, Lessard says. Over time, aerobic exercise such as running or swimming can alter muscle fibers to become more efficient at using oxygen during exercise.”

Furthermore, according to Lessard, "We also grow new blood vessels to allow more oxygen to be delivered to the muscle, which helps to increase our aerobic fitness levels."

The researchers interpreted from their work that having high blood sugar levels may prevent muscles from acting the way they should when it comes to remodeling and having the ability to improve your aerobic exercise performance.

Bear in mind you do not have to be overweight or obese to have high blood sugar. So this study suggests that working out should not just be about losing weight. You may not be able to out-train a bad diet. You may be an avid runner or biker, but if you eat a diet high in sugar, saturated fat and ultra-processed foods you may not be as good of a biker or runner as you could be - even if you are not overweight.

And, of course, you do not want to be prediabetic or diabetic if you can avoid it. As mentioned, many cases of diabetes are connected to a Western diet. The good news is that if you are diabetic, exercise and a good diet can greatly help control your blood sugar levels.

Exercise and diet really go hand in hand, especially if you want to get better at the exercises you are doing. You want to eat a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans and lean animal proteins (if you are not vegan or vegetarian).

You also want to fuel your body specifically for exercise.

Remember that with any kind of physical activity you need the proper intake of nutrients to perform well and recover afterwards

Read here to learn more about how to properly fuel your body for physical fitness. And read here for three nutrients women may specifically need when they exercise. Click here to get an idea of how much exercise may be appropriate for you according to your age.

Finally, it is very important to take routine nutrient tests in order to identify if you have any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary. 


So get moving and enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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