Have Diabetes, Will Exercise

High-intensity intermittent exercise training may improve heart structure, blood sugar control in diabetes patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Exercise may be at the heart of good diabetes control. Literally.

A new study from the UK found that high-intensity intermittent exercise training (HIIT) may improve heart structure and blood sugar control in men with type 2 diabetes.

HIIT is a type of exercise that consists of alternating between short periods of intense aerobic exercise and less intense recovery periods.

"This study demonstrates, for the first time, that exercise can begin to reverse some of the early cardiac changes that are commonly found in people with type 2 diabetes," said lead study author Michael Trenell, PhD, a National Institute for Health Research senior research fellow and director of the MoveLab at Newcastle University in the UK, in a press release. "The data reinforce how important a physically active lifestyle is for people with type 2 diabetes."

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body's cells become resistant to insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar).

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes can damage many organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent these complications.

Dr. Trenell and team looked at the effects of HIIT on 23 men with type 2 diabetes over a 12-week period. The men ranged in age from 45 to 71.

Half of the men participated in short bursts — up to 90 seconds — of intense cycling. The remaining men mad no changes to their daily activity levels.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to look for any physical changes to the heart in these patients. A lab test called the oral glucose tolerance test (GTT) was used to calculate blood sugar control.

The hearts of the men in the HIIT group became stronger and worked more efficiently. These men also tended to have better blood sugar control.

Because all of the study patients were male, these findings may not apply to women with type 2 diabetes.

This study was published Sept. 9 in the journal Diabetologia.

The Medical Research Council funded this research. Dr. Trenell and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 8, 2015
Last Updated:
September 18, 2015