Short Bursts of Intense Exercise Effective for Type 2 Diabetes, Study Finds

Brief bursts of intense exercise may be a more realistic and time-efficient way to lose weight and avoid, delay, and control Type 2 diabetes than traditional exercise regimens, according to new research out of the University of Leicester in England. This adds to the growing body of evidence that short bouts of activity can be helpful for various aspects of diabetes management, such as reversing hypoglycemia unawareness and lowering blood pressure.

Approximately 29 million people in the United States and 3.5 million people in the United Kingdom are currently living with Type 2 diabetes, with millions more at risk. Lifestyle measures such as eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity are recommended as the first step for avoiding and treating the condition. To determine the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT; short bursts of vigorous activity) on blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance compared to either continuous training (CT; moderate-intensity aerobic exercise) or control conditions, researchers analyzed data from 50 studies. All of the included trials had lasted for more than two weeks and measured fasting glucose, insulin resistance, HbA1c (a measure of glucose control over the previous 2–3 months), or fasting insulin in adult participants.

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The researchers found that compared to continuous training, high-intensity interval training led to reductions in insulin resistance in those with and at high risk of Type 2 diabetes, and to larger average decreases in weight. High-intensity interval training programs also resulted in reductions in fasting glucose levels compared to control plans.

“This study involved a meta-analysis of experimental research, allowing us to pull together evidence and establish cause and effect,” stated researcher Charlotte Jelleyman. “HIIT may‚Ķbe suitable as an alternative to continuous exercise training in the promotion of metabolic health, particularly in those with Type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.”

The researchers note that further studies are needed to evaluate the long-term benefits of this form of exercise.

For more information, see the article “Intensive exercise with intervals ‘more effective'” or the study’s abstract in the journal Obesity Reviews. And for tips on integrating physical activity into your daily routine, see the article “Add Movement to Your Life: Exercise Has Tangible Benefits for People With Diabetes” by clinical exercise physiologist Gilles Beaudin.

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