Insulin pump basal adjustment for exercise in type 1 diabetes: a randomised crossover study

Sybil A. McAuley, Jodie C. Horsburgh, Glenn M. Ward, André La Gerche, Judith L. Gooley, Alicia J. Jenkins, Richard J. MacIsaac, David N. O’Neal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of exercise, vs rest, on circulating insulin and glucose, following pre-exercise insulin pump basal rate reduction. 

Methods: This was an open-label, two-stage randomised crossover study of 14 adults (seven women, seven men) with type 1 diabetes established on insulin pump therapy. In each stage, participants fasted and insulin delivery was halved following a single insulin basal rate overnight. Exercise (30 min moderate-intensity stationary bicycle exercise, starting 60 min post-basal reduction) and rest stages were undertaken in random order at a university hospital. Randomisation was computer-generated, and allocation concealed via sequentially numbered sealed opaque envelopes. Venous blood was collected at 15 min intervals from 60 min pre- until 210 min post-basal rate reduction. Changes in plasma free insulin (the primary outcome), and changes in plasma glucose, with exercise were compared with changes when resting. Outcomes were assessed blinded to group assignment. 

Results: Following basal rate reduction when rested, mean (± SE) free insulin decreased by 4.9 ± 2.9%, 16.2 ± 2.6% and 18.6 ± 3.2% at 1, 2 and 3 h, respectively (p <0.05 after 75 min). With exercise, relative to rest, mean free insulin increased by 6 ± 2 pmol/l after 15 min and 5 ± 2 pmol/l after 30 min (p <0.001), then declined post-exercise (p <0.001). Three participants (mean baseline glucose 5.0 ± 0.1 mmol/l) required glucose supplementation to prevent or treat exercise-related hypoglycaemia. In the other 11 participants (mean baseline glucose 8.4 ± 0.5 mmol/l), glucose increased by 0.8 ± 0.3 mmol/l with exercise (p = 0.028). 

Conclusions/interpretation: Halving the basal insulin rate 1 h prior to exercise did not significantly reduce circulating free insulin by exercise commencement. Exercise itself transiently increased insulin levels. In participants with low-normal glucose pre-exercise, hypoglycaemia was not prevented by insulin basal rate reduction alone. Greater insulin basal rate reduction and supplemental carbohydrate may be required to prevent exercise-induced hypoglycaemia. Trial registration: ACTRN12613000581763 Funding: Australian Diabetes Society, Hugh DT Williamson Foundation, Lynne Quayle Charitable Trust Fund

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1636-1644
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Early online date11 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Exercise
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Insulin pump
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • General Medicine


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