Physical activity is a very common part of diabetes treatment. Type 2 sufferers are often advised to maintain a regular exercise program in order to lose weight and control blood sugar. In addition, exercise can strengthen muscles, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, reduce stress, lower LDL levels and boost energy, all of which are important for diabetes sufferers. Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, as well as for heart disease and stroke. So, getting exercise for the treatment of diabetes may also help prevent these other deadly conditions.
The best types of exercises for diabetics are still being determined, however. The American Diabetes Association recommends focusing on strength training in addition to aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, hiking, tennis and so on.
While the association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for at least five days every week, a new study suggests that interval training may actually be more effective than uninterrupted bouts of walking. Interval training generally involves exercise sessions in which the intensity of the training alternates between rigorous and light as opposed to a session of continuous, moderate exercise.
Study Examined Blood Sugar After Exercising
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, randomly sorted type 2 diabetes sufferers into three different groups:
- A continuous walking group
- An interval training group
- A control group
Participants were assigned a specific (but unsupervised) exercise regimen consisting of five 60-minute sessions per week over a four-month period. Researchers used a hyperglycaemic clamp to measure insulin secretion before and after the study was conducted. It was found that the interval training group was the only group to experience an improvement in blood sugar control. The continuous walking and control groups presented no change in glucose metabolism.
How to Do Interval Training
Interval training is relatively simple. For diabetics who would normally walk 30 minutes a day to get their exercise, interval training could mean switching to power walking or jogging for 10 minutes, then going to a slow walking pace for the next 10, and finishing out with another round of power walking or jogging for the next 10. The goal is to alternate between short periods of light exercise and similar activities that raise your heart rate significantly.
There aren’t necessarily any hardcore guidelines. If the 10-10-10 model is too rigorous, you could try jogging for two minutes, walking for three and continuing to alternate for a half hour. You could also try alternating between biking and walking or step-climbing and walking. Of course, it’s always recommended to consult with your doctor about any major changes in your exercise routines.
Interval Training: The Bottom Line
The authors of the study conclude that more research will need to be done before it can be said that interval training has definitive long-term benefits. In the meantime, it may be worth it to ask your doctor and perhaps give it a try. As long as interval training is done safely, it could prove to be more beneficial than typical exercise routines for diabetics.
A copy of the study can be downloaded from Diabetologia.