Short sharp bursts of exercise can help glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on April 12, 2017

High intensity interval training increases glucose metabolism in muscles as well as insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes, new research has found.

It means that type 2 diabetics who want to incorporate more exercise into their life can be encouraged to go for shorter bursts of activity that may have the same beneficial impact of longer periods of exercise.

The research at the University of Turku in Finland looked at the health impacts of high intensity interval training on healthy people and on people with type 2 diabetes and found the results were encouraging.

After just two weeks of training the glucose uptake in thigh muscles returned to a normal level as high impact interval training has a rapid impact on metabolism.

Research project leader Kari Kalliokoski, a senior research fellow at the university, explained that while no great differences have been demonstrated between the impact of high impact interval training and moderate intensity continuous training over a longer period of time, the main benefit of high intensity interval training is that it takes less time.

In the study healthy men in their forties and fifties did either high intensity interval training or traditional, moderate intensity training. Later, a group of people with insulin resistance carried out a similar two week training routine. Some of them had type 2 diabetes and some prediabetes, i.e. their blood sugar levels were elevated but not yet high enough to indicate type 2 diabetes.

Before the training started, the glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity of the insulin resistant persons were significantly reduced compared to the group of healthy individuals. However, already after two weeks of high intensity training, which amounted to six training sessions, the glucose metabolism in the thigh muscles achieved the starting level of the healthy control group.

Glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity improved after both the high intensity training and the moderate intensity continuous training, so the study suggests that people can choose the type of training based on their own preferences.

‘The group that did moderate intensity training achieved only half of the improvement experienced by the high intensity group during the two week period. Therefore, this type of training requires a longer period of time. If you have only little time to spare, high interval training could be a great alternative to traditional training that requires more time but is lower in intensity,’ said university doctoral candidate Tanja Sjöros.

She also pointed out that high intensity interval training also improves endurance. In the study, the endurance of type 2 diabetics increased only in the high intensity group, but earlier studies have shown that, when the training routine continues for over two weeks, endurance increases with the traditional, moderate intensity training just as much as it does with high interval training.

The research study report highlights the beneficial effects of exercise on glucose metabolism especially in diabetics and in those who suffer from disturbances in the glucose metabolism.

‘Everyone can choose the type of training that suits them best. In general, you can achieve the best results for your body by using both training methods, Sjöros said, but added that diabetics should consult their doctor before starting a new exercise routine as if the amount of exercise increases significantly, it might be necessary to check their diabetes medication.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan April 13, 2017 at 5:03 am

Any type of exercise is good for your body and prevents type2 diabetes.

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