Glycogen storage diseases (GSD) are inborn errors of glycogen or glucose metabolism. In the GSDs that affect muscle, the consequence of a block in skeletal muscle glycogen breakdown or glucose use, is an impairment of muscular performance and exercise intolerance, owing to 1) an increase in glycogen storage that disrupts contractile function and/or 2) a reduced substrate turnover below the block, which inhibits skeletal muscle ATP production. Immobility is associated with metabolic alterations in muscle leading to an increased dependence on glycogen use and a reduced capacity for fatty acid oxidation. Such changes may be detrimental for persons with GSD from a metabolic perspective. However, exercise may alter skeletal muscle substrate metabolism in ways that are beneficial for patients with GSD, such as improving exercise tolerance and increasing fatty acid oxidation. In addition, a regular exercise program has the potential to improve general health and fitness and improve quality of life, if executed properly. In this review, we describe skeletal muscle substrate use during exercise in GSDs, and how blocks in metabolic pathways affect exercise tolerance in GSDs. We review the studies that have examined the effect of regular exercise training in different types of GSD. Finally, we consider how oral substrate supplementation can improve exercise tolerance and we discuss the precautions that apply to persons with GSD that engage in exercise.
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