The benefits of physical exercise for the health of the pancreatic β-cell: a review of the evidence

Michelle Curran, Mark T Drayson, Robert C Andrews, Claudio Zoppi, Jonathan P Barlow, Thomas P J Solomon, Parth Narendran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


NEW FINDINGS: What is the topic of this review? This review discusses the evidence of the benefits of exercise training for β-cell health through improvements in function, proliferation and survival which may have implications in the treatment of diabetes. What advances does it highlight? This review highlights how exercise may modulate β-cell health in the context of diabetes and highlights the need for further exploration of whether β-cell preserving effects of exercise translates to T1D.

ABSTRACT: Physical exercise is a core therapy for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Whilst the benefits of exercise for different physiological systems are recognised, the effect of exercise specifically on the pancreatic β-cell is not well described. Here we review the effects of physical exercise on β-cell health. We show that exercise improves β-cell mass and function. The improved function manifests primarily through the increased insulin content of the β-cell and its increased ability to secrete insulin in response to a glucose stimulus. We review the evidence relating to glucose sensing, insulin signalling, β-cell proliferation and β-cell apoptosis in humans and animal models with acute exercise and following exercise training programmes. Some of the mechanisms through which these benefits manifest are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-589
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date3 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2020 The Physiological Society.


  • diabetes
  • exercise
  • immunity
  • physical activity
  • β‐cell


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