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Shorter, More Intense Workouts Best for Lowering Blood Sugar

Exercise improves blood sugar control

(EmaxHealth) Exercise is a powerful tool to help those with Type 2 diabetes control blood sugar levels. The current recommendation is to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, which equals about 30 minutes a day, five days out of seven. However, many patients struggle to meet these guidelines, citing reasons such as lack of time. A new study nips those excuses in the bud, by suggesting that the same blood sugar benefits can be achieved with shorter, but more intense bouts of exercise.

A research team led by Martin Gibala, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, recruited eight volunteers through local diabetes clinics, community diabetes information sessions and poster advertisements. All were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, but were not taking insulin. Six out of the eight were sedentary, defined as participating in fewer than 2 exercise sessions per week. The remaining two reported regular exercise, but at a low-intensity such as walking.

The study participants followed a cycling program which involved a total of 6 supervised sessions over a two-week period. Each session consisted of a 25-minute high intensity workout plus a 3 minute warm up and 2 minute cool down activity. The weekly time commitment was about half of what is currently recommended for diabetes treatment.

Gibala found that the participants lowered their 24-hour blood sugar concentrations, reduced blood sugar spikes after meals, and increased skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity, a marker of metabolic health. These benefits were seen even though the participants did not lose weight during the short study. “The improved glycemic control may be linked to changes in the subjects’ muscles, such as an improved ability to clear glucose from the blood after meals”, he said.

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“These findings are intriguing because they suggest that exercising very strenuously for short periods of time, may provide many of the same health benefits as traditional exercise training,” he concluded. “This is the first study to show that intense interval training may be a potent, time-efficient strategy to improve glycemic regulation in people with type 2 diabetes.”

Gabala is quick to point out that larger studies are needed to comprehensively examine the potential benefits of this type of training, especially compared to traditional exercise guidelines.

Source Reference:
Gibala MJ et al. Low-volume high-intensity interval training reduces hyperglycemia and increases muscle mitochondrial capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology, (August 25, 2011). doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00921.2011

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