Researchers from Abertay University in Dundee have shown that 2 minutes of intensive activity a week really can both improve fitness levels and blood glucose levels.
The study monitored 14 participants who had not undertaken any other training within the previous year. 8 of the participants were assigned to take part in high intensity training and their results were compared against 6 participants who maintained their normal daily activities. Participants in the HIT group had an average BMI level of 29, which was 5 points above those of the control group that had an average BMI of 24.
The study period was 8 weeks. The HIT group performed ten separate 6 second sprints, with 60 seconds recovery time between each sprint, on two days each week. Whilst the exercise period was therefore just over 20 minutes each week, the time spent actively sprinting was just 2 minutes per week.
The researchers used OGT (oral glucose tolerance) tests to assess blood glucose levels and used a number of different tests to assess physical fitness. The physical tests included a 50m loaded walk, which is similar to walking 50m with heavy shopping, and a time to exhaustion test which involved cycling.
After 8 weeks, the results of the study showed that both fasting blood glucose levels and glucose levels at the 2 hour mark following an OGT test had significantly improved in the HIT group. Before the 8 week study period, participants in the HIT group had blood sugar levels of 5.4 mmol/L 2 hours after consuming glucose. After the 8 weeks of HIT, the 2 hour sugar levels after glucose had decreased to a healthy 4.8 mmol/L.
Significant improvements in fitness, within the HIT group, were also seen across each of the fitness tests. As you would expect, the control group, which did not change their normal activity levels did not experience a significant change in fitness.
Whilst the study involved a relatively small number of participants, the research indicates that high intensity training can deliver significant improvements in blood glucose levels and fitness levels without demanding significant time to be set aside each week.
The results of the study are likely to be a particular interest to people at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes or for those with type 2 diabetes that wish to improve their fitness levels and their diabetes control.

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