Metabolic benefits of physical activity

  • Špela Volčanšek Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic diseases, University Medical Centre Ljubljana Zaloška 7, SI-1525
  • Marija Pfeifer Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic diseases, University Medical Centre Ljubljana Zaloška 7, SI-1525
Keywords: myokines, obesity, metabolic syndrome, body weight loss, insulin resistance


Physical activity is the most beneficial intervention in prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Life style, which has become mostly sedentary, leads to growing incidence in obesity, what could cause the first so far reduction in life expectancy in developed countries.

Physical activity reduces the chronic low-grade inflammation, which plays an important role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Regular physical activity exerts two anti-inflammatory effects: reduction of visceral fat, which produces the majority of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and production of myokines. It has been proposed that cytokines and other peptides that are produced by muscle fibers should be classified as myokines that exert autocrine, paracrine and endocrine effects. Myokines induce muscle hypertrophy and myogenesis, stimulate fat oxidation, improve insulin sensitivity and have an anti-inflammatory effect.  Therefore, skeletal muscle has been identified as a secretory organ and this provides the basis for understanding how muscles communicate with other organs, such as adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, gut, bones and brain. Physical inactivity leads to an altered myokine profile, associating sedentary life style with some chronic diseases.

Physical activity is recommended as a tool for weight management and prevention of weight gain, for weight loss and for prevention of weight regain. High quality studies have confirmed the important impact of exercise on improving blood glucose control in diabetic patients, and on preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in predisposed populations. Prescribing specific exercise tailored to individual's needs is an intervention strategy for health improvement. Physical fitness counteracts the detrimental effects of obesity reducing morbidity and mortality.


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How to Cite
Volčanšek Špela, Pfeifer M. Metabolic benefits of physical activity. ZdravVestn [Internet]. 19Oct.2014 [cited 17Jan.2019];83(9). Available from: