Interval Training | high/low intensity produces exercise benefits for people with diabetes

One of the biggest things in exercise right now is interval training. And a number of studies have shown that it can be more effective than steady-pace aerobic exercise for getting you in shape.

Besides increasing your endurance and stamina, interval training can improve insulin sensitivity and diminish that abdominal spare tire.

That’s a good thing, since visceral fat (the type of fat found around your organs) is linked to metabolic syndrome. In point of fact, interval training can be helpful for anyone who wants to drop a few pounds.

So what is interval training?

Jackie Shahar, MEd, RCEP, CDE, Manager of the Exercise Physiology Department at Joslin Diabetes Center, says interval training involves bursts of high intensity work alternating with periods of recovery at lower intensity. The alternating pace works both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Why Is It So Good?

When you move quickly between high and lower intensity activity, your muscles don’t have time to adapt, so any change in speed or intensity during the workout requires more energy from your muscles. Working at higher intensity, even for shorts period of time, also helps you burn more calories.  And it gives your workout more variety and thus makes it more interesting.

Next Question—How Do I Go About This?

A number of exercises lend themselves to interval training, for example, walking, running, swimming, stationary biking (spin classes) and using the elliptical trainer.

BUT BEFORE YOU BEGIN, REMEMBER:

  • Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
  • Don’t forget to warm up with at least five minutes of low intensity walking or jogging.
  • And always check your blood glucose before and after exercise to make sure you are in a safe zone.

Then it depends on what shape you are in.

Start at a pace that you can handle and that is enjoyable.  If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll have a much harder time sticking with it.

You might start with relatively short bursts at your maximum capacity (that’s where you would feel winded)—say, for 30 seconds, and then drop to 50% of this for the next 90 seconds. (This is the recovery period).

You might begin by repeating this sequence for 15 minutes and work your way up to doing it for 30 minutes to an hour.

For more information on diabetes and physical activity, visit the diabetes information section of the Joslin web site.

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5 Responses to Interval Training | high/low intensity produces exercise benefits for people with diabetes

  1. kindly keep spreading the beneficial reports to the society.

  2. Pingback: Diabetes Interval Training | DiabeticWorkoutFitness

  3. Catherine says:

    Great post! Thank you! Perhaps you can have a follow-up that further explains why interval training is good specifically for diabetics. This one seems to brush over insulin sensitivity & metabolic syndrome & explains why it’s great for everyone, which it is, but the title makes it sound like it would explain more about how it relates specifically to diabetics.

  4. Hi, Catherine,
    Research on interval training showed to improve insulin sensitivity by 23-58% (compare to non diabetics 23-33%), increase in aerobic and anaerobic fitness, enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation, improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Interval training provided improved BG for 48-72 hours which results in reduced need of insulin or diabetes oral meds. As a result patients with diabetes should exercise at least 3-4 days per week to get the insulin sensitivity benefit and be able to take less meds.
    Hope this helps.
    Jackie Shahar

  5. Andrew says:

    I am in my mid-50′s, pre-diabetic, but very fit and lean. I have been doing interval training for about a year. My question concerns the optimal duration of the high intensity phase of the “sprint phase followed by low intensity phase, and then repeat” cycle. More specifically, what duration is optimal specifically in respect to improving blood sugar regulation (as contrasted with other goals that one might have for doing interval training, such as improved athletic performance).

    My cycles have histoically been 60 seconds of sprint, followed by about 90 seconds of low intensity. Is there any evidence and / or other argument for choosing a particular combination of times for the two phases of a cycle? I recall that I have read that it is better to do relatively long duration (e.g. 60 seconds) sprints if one’s goal is blood sugar regulation.

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