Brief exercise boosts blood sugar control

Short bursts of intense exercise before meals could improve blood sugar control in patients with pre-diabetes, research suggests.

Brief, intense exercise before meals was more beneficial, the study found (Photo: iStock)
Brief, intense exercise before meals was more beneficial, the study found (Photo: iStock)

Adults with insulin resistance but not on diabetes medication benefited more from brief, intense bouts of exercise before meals than from a longer period of sustained exercise.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand said this exercise 'snacking' could optimise glucose control and counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Their study examined nine patients aged 18-55 years who had an average BMI of 36.

Participants who performed six one-minute sessions of incline walking and/or resistance exercise ending half an hour before each of their meals saw an average 12% reduction in post-meal glucose levels. The benefits lasted for up to 24 hours.

In contrast, those who performed a single 30-minute session of moderate exercise saw no improvement in their blood glucose control.

Previous research showed that intense interval exercise every second day is just as effective at lowering glucose levels as a daily, continuous, moderate-intensity routine, and takes less time to complete.

The technique also breaks up prolonged periods of inactivity, which are harmful to health.

Although the authors admitted that further work is required to determine the clinical significance of their study, they believe the results add to recent evidence that favours short, sharp bursts of exercise rather than prolonged bouts.

Study lead Monique Francois said: 'For individuals who are insulin resistant and who experience marked post-meal increases in blood glucose, both the timing and the intensity of exercise should be considered for optimising glucose control.'

  • Diabetologia Online 2014.

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