AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase) is a phylogenetically conserved fuel-sensing enzyme that is present in all mammalian cells. During exercise, it is activated in skeletal muscle in humans, and at least in rodents, also in adipose tissue, liver and perhaps other organs by events that increase the AMP/ATP ratio. When activated, AMPK stimulates energy-generating processes such as glucose uptake and fatty acid oxidation and decreases energy-consuming processes such as protein and lipid synthesis. Exercise is perhaps the most powerful physiological activator of AMPK and a unique model for studying its many physiological roles. In addition, it improves the metabolic status of rodents with a metabolic syndrome phenotype, as does treatment with AMPK-activating agents; it is therefore tempting to attribute the therapeutic benefits of regular physical activity to activation of AMPK. Here we review the acute and chronic effects of exercise on AMPK activity in skeletal muscle and other tissues. We also discuss the potential role of AMPK activation in mediating the prevention and treatment by exercise of specific disorders associated with the metabolic syndrome, including Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
Keywords: AMP-Activated Protein Kinases; Animals; Biological Markers; Disease; Exercise; Health; Humans; Models, Biological; Motor Activity; Muscle Contraction; Muscle, Skeletal; Time Factors