How much exercise do you need to manage type 2 diabetes?

by Barbara Hewitt on August 22, 2017

Exercising helps people with type 2 diabetes but it does not always work for everyone, however several new studies are giving an insight into what does work for certain groups of diabetics.

For example, a study in Spain has found that high intensity interval training (HIIT) helps combat high insulin resistance in woman and researchers in Denmark have found that intensive exercise alongside a strict diet is highly effective with half of study participants no longer needing glucose lowering medication.


When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, which can also involve losing weight, a gentle walk is not enough, according to the study from the University of Navarre in Spain.

The researchers found that HIIT, which involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by a brief low intensity activity, combats high insulin resistance which is a warning sign for type 2 diabetes.

The finding comes as another study discovered that a programme of intensive exercise and a strict diet worked so well that half of participants no longer needed their glucose-lowering medications.

However, not all experts agree and one warned that diabetics should not come off their drugs and advised that a healthy lifestyle should always be adopted in combination with medication.

The team analysed 40 women divided into two groups, those with high and low levels of insulin resistance, and underwent a 10 week programme of HIIT. They found that most women at risk for type 2 diabetes show improved heart health, lower glucose levels and normal insulin levels after the course.

Women in both groups lost weight and body fat after the exercise programme but the greatest improvements were in women at higher risk.

The researchers from Copenhagen hospital in Denmark looked at 100 type 2 diabetes patients and asked half to follow a standard diabetes care plan while the rest were given a more intense lifestyle regime. All patients had been diagnosed for less than 10 years, and none had complications from the disease.

The intense group carried out exercise, both endurance and resistance training, five to six times per week for 30 to 60 minutes per session. They also followed a strict diet rich in fruit and fibre, low in saturated fats and containing no processed food.

The study concluded that an intensive lifestyle management brought blood sugar levels into a nondiabetic range. In addition, three quarters of those in the intensive group needed less diabetes medication, while only a quarter of the standard care group lowered their medications.

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

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