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High intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. Research shows that HIIT workouts can lead to improvements in blood glucose levels and improved muscle mass. Relatively small amounts of high intensity intervals can be as beneficial to health as longer periods of conventional cardiovascular exercise, such as continuous jogging at a steady pace. An interval training workout plan is also more convenient due to it’s short time commitment.

HIIT for the Prevention of Type 2 Diabets

Diet and exercise are the primary recommendation for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that adults with pre-diabetes engage in more than 150 minutes per week of a moderate exercise plan and target a 7% weight loss i. However, traditional workout programs are difficult to sustain due to lack of time. HIIT is an equally effective fitness plan that requires less time.

HIIT Improves Insulin Sensitivity in People with Type 2 Diabetes

Two hours of high intensity circuit training over two weeks improved insulin sensitivity in sedentary overweight men and women with type 2 diabetes ii. Average blood glucose levels over 24 hours improved after a calisthenics workout. This means that after only two weeks, participants had better blood glucose control. Better glucose control means better metabolic health for individuals with type 2 diabetics.

Exercise is Beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes Regardless of Weight Loss

The benefits of exercise for type 2 diabetics is independent of body weight. Structured exercise programs, such as HIIT fitness, had a statistically and clinically significant beneficial effect on glycemic control, and this effect was not primarily mediated by weight loss iii.

Exercise has Better Effects on Insulin Sensitivity than Diet

Improving insulin sensitivity requires less exercise than does losing weight.
The amount of HIIT exercises necessary to improve glycemic control and cardiovascular health is less than the amount of exercise needed to achieve weight loss iv.

Higher Intensity Exercise is More Beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes than Lower Intensity

A meta-analysis v showed that exercise intensity predicted greater benefits than exercise volume. These results encourage individuals with type 2 diabetes who are already exercising at moderate intensity, to increase intensity in order to obtain additional benefits in health and fitness as well as glycemic control.

Research shows that exercise, especially brief high intensity interval training workouts, are the cornerstone of diabetes management, along with diet and medication. The points highlighted in this article summarize research on type 2 diabetes and offer fitness tips for it’s practical application.

i Rynders CA1, Weltman A.,Phys Sportsmed. 2014 Feb;42(1):7-14. doi: 10.3810/psm.2014.02.2042.

ii Jonathan P. Little, 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 December 1, 2011 vol. 111 no.6 :1554-1560.

iii Ronald J. Sigal, Et Al, Physical Activity/Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes:
A Consensus Statement from the American Diabetes Association, doi: 10.2337/dc06-9910
Diabetes Care June 2006 vol. 29 no. 6 1433-1438.

iv Ronald J. Sigal, Et Al, Physical Activity/Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes:
A Consensus Statement from the American Diabetes Association, doi: 10.2337/dc06-9910
Diabetes Care June 2006 vol. 29 no. 6 1433-1438.

v Boulé NG, Kenny GP, Haddad E, Wells GA, Sigal RJ: Meta-analysis of the Effect of Structured Exercise Training on Cardio-Respiratory Fitness in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetologia 46:1071–1081, 2003

Author's bio: Naghma Husain is a professional educator, a nutrition and fitness coach, and a mom of three. She specializes in creating fun and easy fitness plans leading to permanent weight loss and overall better health. She writes for our blog using her experiences through many years of implementing small lifestyle changes through exercise and nutrition.

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