High-intensity interval training lowers blood sugar in patients with diabetes

High-intensity interval training (HIT) can lower blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the December 2011 issue of Journal of Applied Physiology.

According to the article authors from McMaster University and the University of British Columbia in Canada, “Our findings indicate that low-volume HIT can rapidly improve glucose control and induce adaptations in skeletal muscle that are linked to improved metabolic health in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

Researchers had eight patients with type 2 diabetes perform six HIT sessions over a two-week period. For each session, they cycled on an exercise machine for 60 seconds at 90 percent of their maximal heart rate followed by a 60-second rest period for a total of ten intervals.

Researchers measured patients' blood sugar levels with a continuous glucose monitor both 24 hours before each of the six training session and up to 72 hours after training. Patients kept standardized dietary conditions during the study.

Researchers found that the average blood glucose concentration decreased in the patients 24 hours after training. Patients ranged in age from 55 to 71 years and had a body mass index in the 26 to 38 range.

High-intensity interval training is believed to boost endurance by improving a person's ability to take in more oxygen. It also increases anaerobic metabolism, which improves activities that require a quick burst of energy. It's popular among runners, rowers, and cyclists to improve speed.

A different study in 2005 published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that doing bursts of intense exercise helps the body burn fat more effectively. That study also found that cardiovascular fitness improved by 13 percent, according to an article in the New York Times.

HIT not for everyone
High-intensity training may not be appropriate for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or joint problems. People should consult a physician before doing interval training.

Whether a workout is high or low intensity, the important thing is to stay active. Physical activity can lower blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, according to the American Diabetes Association.

People can chose one activity that burns calories and glucose and another one that helps build muscles, according to the American Diabetes Association. Walking or biking can help burn energy, while lifting weights or walking with light weights can help with muscle building.

Sources: Journal of Applied Physiology, New York Times, American Diabetes Association

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