Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Exercise recommendations for people with diabetes vary — based, mostly, on a person’s health status and how physically active he or she currently is. For nearly everyone, though, some amount of deliberate exercise is recommended. Yet many people get far less exercise than they should. This is understandable; life gets in the way, and it’s not always possible on a given day to get in 30 or 60 minutes of brisk walking when you have to work, shop, cook, and attend to the needs of family members. But what if the time commitment were only 10 minutes, and you didn’t have to exercise every day?

This level of exercise was examined recently by a study conducted at the University of Bath in the UK, published online by the European Journal of Applied Physiology. According to an article from the UK Press Association, study volunteers — 29 healthy but sedentary adults — participated in three weekly exercise bike sessions of 10 minutes each. The focus of each session was two 20-second sprints on the bikes, with participants cranking up the bike’s resistance for these sprints. The rest of the time was spent on low-intensity warm-up and cool-down periods. After six weeks, the insulin sensitivity of participants (as measured by response to a 75-gram glucose load) was 28% higher than at the beginning of the study. In addition, VO2 peak — maximal oxygen uptake, a measure of aerobic fitness — increased by 15% in males and by 12% in females.

As the study shows, it is possible to see clinically significant health improvements from shorter exercise periods than most of us would expect to be necessary. Given the challenge that maintaining a steady exercise routine represents to so many people, the study raises a question: Should people who struggle with motivation to exercise give up on more ambitious routines, and set out to exercise for only 30 minutes per week? As we noted in a post last year, motivation to exercise can be affected by a number of factors, including a feeling of being accountable to someone. But it stands to reason that one barrier to sticking with an exercise plan could be the sense that it demands a large amount of time, or at least an amount that feels daunting on a given day. If the amount of time budgeted for exercise were only 10 minutes, it is possible that many more people than otherwise would stick to their plans due to the small psychological burden that 10 minutes represents.

What do you think — would you be more likely to exercise if your goal were to do it for only 10 minutes, three times a week? Do you think you would settle into such a routine, and if so, would you then be likely to increase the length of your workouts? Would short exercise periods make self-motivation easier for you, or do you think feeling accountable to a doctor, nurse, family member, or exercise partner would still make a big difference? Leave a comment below!

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