Diabetes Forecast

Exercise Can Help Control Weight in People Taking Insulin

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What to Know

People with type 2 diabetes who take insulin often put on weight, which makes diabetes more difficult to manage. Insulin therapy helps your body’s cells absorb and store glucose rather than allowing it to accumulate in the bloodstream. That’s good. But for some people with type 2 diabetes, taking insulin often leads to weight gain. If you take in more calories than your body needs, using insulin makes it more likely that extra calories will be stored as fat. The result: Weight gain. In addition to a proper diet, what else can you do to prevent putting pounds? This study provides one possible answer.

The Study

Researchers in the Netherlands recruited 40 people with type 2 diabetes who had just begun insulin therapy. Their average age was 60. Of the participants, 22 had a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height used to estimate how close a person is to a healthy weight) below 30, while 18 were obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher). At the beginning, middle, and end of the 12-month study, the researchers measured the participants’ weight and their waist circumference, as well as their blood glucose levels. They also assessed their level of physical activity.

The Results

After a year of insulin therapy, participants’ blood glucose levels dropped, but they gained an average of about 6½ pounds. They also became less physically active, taking an average of nearly 1,800 fewer steps per day. But when the researchers broke down the results by BMI, they found that nonobese people accounted for those changes. At the beginning of the study, they spent less time sitting and more time active compared with the obese participants. After they started insulin therapy, however, they began to sit more and move less. They also gained weight. The obese participants saw no such changes.


To prevent the weight gain that often comes with insulin therapy, sit less and exercise more. This may be particularly good advice if you have a BMI below 30. However, the study authors point out that the obese participants sat for an average of 12½ hours a day at the start of the study. It’s unlikely that they could sit any longer than that. That fact could explain why the obese participants did not increase sedentary behavior or gain weight during the study. Less sitting is good for everyone.

Insulin-Associated Weight Gain in Type 2 Diabetes Is Associated With Increases in Sedentary Behavior.” Yvonne A.W. Hartman, Henry J. Jansen, Maria T.E. Hopman, Cees J. Tack, and Dick H.J. Thijssen. Diabetes Care, published online July 10, 2017.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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