The impact of physical inactivity on glucose homeostasis when diet is adjusted to maintain energy balance in healthy, young males

William V. Trim, Jean-Philippe Walhin, Francoise Koumanov, James E. Turner, Natalie F. Shur, Elizabeth J. Simpson, Ian A. Macdonald, Paul L. Greenhaff, Dylan Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background & aims: It is unclear if dietary adjustments to maintain energy balance during reduced physical activity can offset inactivity-induced reductions in insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal to produce normal daily glucose concentrations and meal responses. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine the impact of long-term physical inactivity (60 days of bed rest) on daily glycemia when in energy balance.

Methods: Interstitial glucose concentrations were measured using Continuous Glucose Monitoring Systems (CGMS) for 5 days before and towards the end of bed rest in 20 healthy, young males (Age: 34 ± 8 years; BMI: 23.5 ± 1.8 kg/m2). Energy intake was reduced during bed rest to match energy expenditure, but the types of foods and timing of meals was maintained. Fasting venous glucose and insulin concentrations were determined, as well as the change in whole-body glucose disposal using a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp (HIEC).

Results: Following long-term bed rest, fasting plasma insulin concentration increased 40% (p = 0.004) and glucose disposal during the HIEC decreased 24% (p < 0.001). Interstitial daily glucose total area under the curve (tAUC) from pre-to post-bed rest increased on average by 6% (p = 0.041), despite a 20 and 25% reduction in total caloric and carbohydrate intake, respectively. The nocturnal period (00:00–06:00) showed the greatest change to glycemia with glucose tAUC for this period increasing by 9% (p = 0.005). CGMS measures of daily glycemic variability (SD, J-Index, M-value and MAG) were not changed during bed rest.

Conclusions: Reduced physical activity (bed rest) increases glycemia even when daily energy intake is reduced to maintain energy balance. However, the disturbance to daily glucose homeostasis was much more modest than the reduced capacity to dispose of glucose, and glycemic variability was not negatively affected by bed rest, likely due to positive mitigating effects from the contemporaneous reduction in dietary energy and carbohydrate intake.

Clinical trials record: NCT03594799 (registered July 20, 2018) (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-540
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date16 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Long-term bed rest
  • Glucose homeostasis
  • Continuous glucose monitoring
  • Hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp
  • Energy balance
  • Young males


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