HIIT training & Type 2 Diabetes

HIIT Training, or High-Intensity Interval Training, has become popular in the past years thanks to its many benefits on the metabolic system. A well-tuned metabolism is crucial for diabetics since the metabolic processes convert our consumed sugars into energy, and part of the diabetic condition is when glucose cannot enter the cells for this process to occur. HIIT training can crank up your metabolic fire so that your body is a roaring furnace. But is HIIT right for Type 2 Diabetics? We sat down with Dr. Sarah Brewer, renowned doctor, and member of CuraLife’s medical advisory board, to find out more about how diabetics should view exercise. What are the big challenges for people with type two diabetes when it comes to exercising? "Many people with type 2 diabetes are relatively unfit and overweight. It’s important to start an exercise regime slowly and to build up in intensity to prevent soreness and loss of motivation. Ideally, work with a gym buddy or trainer to keep you on track." Can exercise and diet 'cure' Type 2 Diabetes? "In the early stages, if you exercise regularly and follow a healthy diet you should see your type 2 diabetes control improve. In those who are overweight or obese, a weight loss of greater than 5% body weight appears necessary for beneficial effects on glucose control (HbA1c), blood lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) and blood pressure." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25935570 "Greater degrees of weight loss leads to progressive improvements in glucose control in type 2 diabetes and may reverse the condition. A weight loss of 10% body weight can prevent future diabetes in people with prediabetes or metabolic syndrome." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26627223 Exercise is therefore crucial for diabetics and prediabetics.

What are the dangers and benefits of exercise for diabetics?

"If you have type 2 diabetes and are managed on medication, it’s important to ensure your blood glucose levels don’t go too low as a result of over-exercising. If you are managed on diet and lifestyle alone, this is not usually an issue. Your doctor can advise on how to follow an exercise programme. The usual advice is to exercise for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week, at a moderate intensity, such as brisk walking or cycling, in bouts of at least 10 minutes at a time. Alternatively, if you are fit, then at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running or football. You should also perform exercises to improve muscle strength at least twice a week."

What are the other key considerations?

"To lose weight, cut back on food intake, follow a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, and avoid exercise alcohol."

Does diabetes affect a person's ability to get lean?

"You should be able to lose weight via a diet and exercise program – if you stick to it! You need to reverse the habits that caused the weight gain as much as possible. However, as you get older, in general, weight loss becomes less easy as your metabolic rate can naturally slow – especially if you do little exercise. The most usual medication prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes, metformin, does not appear to promote weight gain and may even help you shed a few pounds."

Diabetes and HIIT - is there anything diabetics need to do specifically to manage nutrition around sessions?

"If you are not on medication then start slowly and as your fitness improves, increase the workout intensity by increasing the HIIT time and decreasing your rest time. For example, you can slowly increase your HIIT period from 20 seconds to 30 seconds, and shorten your rest period from one minute down to 10 seconds. Because HIIT increases your heart rate more than a steady-state exercise, such as brisk walking, it burns more calories and helps you lose more fat than with more traditional forms of exercise. However, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting HIIT if you have type 2 diabetes – some people with high blood pressure or heart problems may be advised not to perform this type of intense exercise."

Are there any differences in the way low intensity aerobic and high-intensity anaerobic exercise can affect blood sugar levels and other issues relating to diabetes?

"Some studies suggest that HIIT helps to reduce total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, insulin resistance and promote improvements in glucose control and cardiovascular health in people with type 2 diabetes. However, more research is needed to ensure this is a safe and effective approach for people with type 2 diabetes before it can be widely recommended. It is very much an individual thing based on a person’s overall health and fitness level." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334091/ Well, there you have it. Dr. Sarah Brewer’s take on HIIT and how it relates to Type 2. Here at CuraLife, we are strong advocates of leading a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise.