Researchers at McMaster University in Canada have found that brief high intensity workouts, as little as six sessions over two weeks, rapidly lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics, offering a potential fix for patients who struggle to meet exercise guidelines.
A total of 3 x 25 minute workouts of high-intensity intermittent exercise per week lowered 24-hour blood sugar concentrations, reduced blood sugar spikes after meals, and increased skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity, a marker of metabolic health.
International guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week (twice the training time commitment of the study participants) which can be tough to manage for many people including those with diabetes.
For the study, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers gave each volunteer a workout which involved riding a stationary bike for 10 bouts of 60 seconds at roughly 90 percent of maximal heart rate, with one minute between each burst of exercise. The routine also included a warm up and cool down such that each training session lasted 25 minutes in total.
Participants showed improved blood sugar levels even though they did not lose weight during the short two-week study.
"The improved glycaemic control may be linked to changes in the subjects' muscles, such as an improved ability to clear glucose from the blood after meals", says Gibala. "We need to conduct further research to identify the mechanisms behind these results."