Swimming Can Improve Horse Glucose, Insulin Levels

Low-intensity swimming could help maintain glucose and insulin levels without putting excess strain on horses’ limbs.

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Swimming Can Improve Horse Glucose, Insulin Levels
Based on their study results, the team believes swimming could have particular benefits for horses with insulin dysregulation issues. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
When insulin’s up, surf’s up? While you might not send your horse surfing, researchers have learned that swimming can help regulate his insulin levels.

Both blood glucose and blood insulin values improved in Thoroughbreds training on a daily swimming routine, making this low-intensity exercise program a good way to help manage insulin regulation, said Paolo Baragli, DVM, PhD, and Micaela Sgorbini, DVM, PhD, researchers in the University of Pisa Department of Veterinary Sciences, in Italy.

“With swimming, we can maintain adequate levels of glucose uptake (and even improve it) without having negative outcomes related to the hoof impact on the ground,” he said.

In their study, Baragli, Sgorbini, and their fellow researchers worked 12 Thoroughbred geldings gradually up to a daily swimming session of 60 minutes in an equine pool. They compared insulin and glucose levels before and after a full month of the routine. To do so, they tested plasma insulin and glucose concentrations at multiple intervals (5, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 60 minutes) after an intravenous injection of glucose, at the start and the end of the training month. They also monitored the horses’ heart rates and blood lactate levels during exercise

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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