Interval training is a flexible form of training that has also been shown to be particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
High intensity interval training has made positive headlines thanks to research showing that relatively small amounts of interval training can be as beneficial to health as longer periods of conventional cardiovascular exercise, such as continuous jogging.
A key advantage of interval training is that it can be fit into the day before work, before lunch or any convenient free moment, even for those of us that lead busy lifestyles.
What is interval training?
Short bursts of activity with rest breaks in between each bout of exercise. The activity periods should increase in intensity with each new session. Each bout of exercise should work the heart and leave you breathing deeper.
One form of High intensity interval training is the PACE routine. PACE stands for Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion ad was designed, by American Physician Al Sears, to be beneficial for the heart and metabolism.
Who is HIIT for?
High intensity interval training is suitable for most people, from those that have not exercised in years through to athletes.
HIIT has been found to be a useful and effective form of exercise for people with type 2 diabetes or with heart disease
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, or have a chronic health condition in addition to your diabetes, check with your doctor before commencing interval training.
As with any good exercise routine, HIIT has benefits for your heart, blood glucose levels and mental well being.
The following benefits are particularly associated with interval training:
- Can be undertaken in as little as 10 minutes
- Is very flexible – a wide range of exercises can be chosen
- Is suitable for people that currently have a low level of fitness
- Can be as effective as much longer periods of continuous exercise
How to follow HIIT
The idea is to tire your body during each burst of activity and then you have a short rest period before another bout of activity. During the rest period, try to keep moving but not intensely. For example, if you’ve been sprinting for the burst of activity, ease down to a jog and then walk for your rest period.
By the end of each active burst, you should notice your heart rate has risen considerably and your breathing has become deeper.
The length of time you exercise for can vary from one type of HIIT to another. Typical examples vary between 10 and 20 minutes.
Examples of high intensity interval training include:
- For a beginner try a 30 seconds bout of activity with 90 second rest periods in between.
- If well accustomed to interval training, you may try 3 minutes of exercise followed by 1 minute of rest.
Whilst the training aims to get your heart working faster, do not attempt to work yourself too hard before your body is ready. Start off at a gradual pace and increase the intensity gradually with each new exercise session.
Which exercises are involved?
One of the great aspects of interval training is that you can choose from a wide range of exercises
Can choose which exercises you do
- Push ups
You can even combine two different types of exercise in one activity bout. Such as a set of squats followed by a set of push ups and then your rest period. Even walking can be used if the options above are too challenging to start with.
Ensure your body is warmed up before you start the session.
If you have not exercised recently or have another chronic health condition, in addition to diabetes, you should consult your doctor for advice starting HIIT.
If you take medication that puts you at risk of hypoglycemia, it’s important to take precautions to prevent low blood glucose levels from occurring. Read more on sport and preventing hypos
Some people may notice that blood glucose levels rise immediately following interval training. This is because short bursts of activity can commonly prompt the liver to release stored glucose (glycogen). However, blood glucose levels will usually tend towards lower values over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Research has shown that high intensity interval training can lead to improvements in blood glucose levels and improved muscle mass.
One study reviewed the blood glucose levels of 8 patients with type 2 diabetes before and after 6 sessions of interval training set out over 2 weeks.
Each training session included 1 minute bouts of cycling with 1 minute breaks in between each of the 10 bouts of cycling.
The participants average blood glucose levels over a 24 hour period had been 7.6 mmol/l before the training.
Blood glucose levels through 324 hours were later taken between 48 and 72 hours following the last training session and average sugar levels had dropped 6.6 mmol/l
In addition to improving blood glucose levels, the participants showed increased skeletal muscle. 
Interval training and intermittent fasting
Combining interval training with an intermittent fasting diet has gaining popularity amongst people actively looking to improve their health and fitness.
A small study, carried out by the University of Leuve, showed that exercise carried out in a state of fasting is associated with improved insulin sensitivity compared with participants that took a carbohydrate-rich breakfast 90 minutes prior to training.