ome on, be honest – how much exercise do you do? Statistics suggest two thirds of men and just over half of women meet the minimum guidelines 1, with those who don’t often citing lack of time to exercise as a reason1.
According to Government recommendations, we should all aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise – the kind that leaves you perspiring and barely able to talk.6
But what if you could get all the benefits of exercise in half that time or less? And what if shorter exercise sessions were actually better for managing diabetes than a longer, steadier effort?
That’s the claim made for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): a way of exercising in which you alternate moderate activity and short bursts of vigorous effort. So what’s HIIT all about, and should you be giving it a try?
The science behind HIIT
The principle of HIIT can be applied to many different forms of exercise, from walking to cycling, swimming or a dance class.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine2, HIIT has been shown to improve overall fitness, blood pressure and cardiovascular health, just as traditional exercise routines do. A HIIT session also tends to burn 6% to 15% more calories, especially after the workout.
Diabetes researchers are particularly interested in the positive effect that HIIT appears to have on blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. A recent review of eight small studies of groups of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes found brief HIIT sessions improved blood glucose for 1 to 3 days post-exercise. The other finding showed how HIIT was less likely to cause hypoglycaemia both during and immediately after exercise.3
A separate study of people with type 2 diabetes whose blood glucose improved during HIIT walking sessions found their insulin sensitivity and ability to disperse glucose into the body’s cells increased, compared to a control group.4
Is HIIT safe?
As monitoring your glucose levels and avoiding a hypo during and after exercise can be tricky at the best of times, you might wonder what will happen if you’re making your session shorter but with more intense bursts.
According to the diabetes and sport website, Runsweet.com5, everyone’s response to activity is different and frequent glucose testing, at least to start with, is essential to work out what is happening.
‘These measurements can help individuals form a template for different activities, so they can recognise patterns, predict their own glycaemic response, and learn to manipulate their insulin dose and carbohydrate intake,’ Runsweet.com says.
As with any exercise regime, if you’re not normally active or have any health concerns, talk to your diabetes care team before starting a HIIT plan. But if you don’t mind a more intense exercise session, it seems that shorter may be sweeter after all.
Have you tried HIIT? Visit our Facebook page and share your experience.
Find out more
Guide to safe and effective exercise with diabetes. www.runsweet.com
1 Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England 2015. Pub. Mar 2015.https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2015
2 High-Intensity Interval Training. American College of Sports Medicine. https://www.stepupandgo.org/Sub.aspx?id=2109
3 Adams P. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2013; 6: 113-122. http://www.dovepress.com/the-impact-of-brief-high-intensity-exercise-on-blood-glucose-levels-peer-reviewed-article-DMSO
4 Karstoft et al. Diabetologia. 2014; 57; 10: 2081-2093. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-014-3334-5
5 Guide to safe and effective exercise with diabetes. www.runsweet.com
6.NHS Physical activity guidelines for adults http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx