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High-Intensity Exercise Helps Manage Type 2 Diabetes, Research Shows

People who have type 2 diabetes and want to improve their blood sugar levels and cholesterol through exercise may want to try short bursts of high-intensity workouts. New research shows that this type of exercise regimen appears to have better results than working out at a lower intensity for a longer period of time.

Researchers say patients in their study who exercised at a high intensity three times a day for 10 minutes had significantly better results for improving their blood sugar levels and reducing their body mass index – a measurement of height versus weight – compared to people who did some type of sustained, lower-intensity exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week.

After three months, patients who had been following the vigorous exercise regimen had an average 0.82 percent decrease in their blood sugar patterns. Those who worked out at a lower intensity had an average 0.25 percent drop.

The research was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. With further study, the findings could eventually change exercise recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes, researchers said. Historically, diabetes management programs have focused on low-intensity workouts. Exercise is know to help reduce cholesterol and weight, in addition to managing type 2 diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease, according to a news release from the American Heart Association.

Currently, federal health authorities recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for at least five days a week. Activities like walking briskly, dancing, bicycling are suggested as ways to work large muscles and increase heart rate.

In the study of intense exercise, patients achieved a higher maximum heart rate during these short bursts of vigorous exercise, said lead study author Avinash Pandey, an undergraduate student at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. They worked out at 85 percent of their target heart rate. Those in the lower intensity study group reached 65 percent of their target heart rate.

“We also found that these 10 minute intervals may be easier to fit into busy schedules, since people randomized to that regimen were more consistent with exercise and ended up doing more exercise per week,” Pandey said.

Not only did the patients have greater improvements to their cholesterol levels, they also experienced a 2.3-fold greater improvement in HbA1c levels and and a three-fold reduction in BMI.

It may be possible that higher intensity exercise is more helpful than sustained, lower intensity exercise because it uses energy in a different way, Pandey said.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

+ Have you been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or are at risk for this chronic health condition? Try Individual or Group Counseling at Bon Secours In Motion to learn how healthy strategies can help people living with diabetes.

+ Learn how to choose healthier foods for better nutrition and weight loss through the Nutritional Analysis program at Bon Secours In Motion.