Low-intensity activity as good as strenuous exercise in diabetes

Low-intensity activity is as effective as strenuous exercise at improving diabetes control, a study suggests.

Exercise can improve diabetes control (Photograph: UNP)
Exercise can improve diabetes control (Photograph: UNP)

Researchers compared the effect of two different exercise programmes on 37 people with diabetes. Participants undertook either 55 minutes of low-intensity exercise (at 50% of maximum effort) or 45 minutes of high-intensity exercise (at 75% of maximum effort).

Activities included walking, cycling and cross-training. The regimes were matched so that both groups burned the same number of calories. The exercises were performed three times a week for six months.

Both programmes reduced participants’ body weight, as well as their HbA1c and cholesterol levels. Increases were also seen in lung capacity and lean muscle mass.

In addition, the improvements in the two groups did not differ from each other, the researchers found. The researchers concluded that implementation of a continuous high-intensity exercise programme is not required to lower HbA1c levels in people with type-2 diabetes.

‘A less intense continuous endurance-type exercise regimen can be equally effective when longer duration of exercise compensates for the lower exercise intensity,’ they said.

The health benefits of either programme equate to a 6% cut in the risk of premature death and an 11% cut in the risk of microvascular disease, they added.

Previous research has shown that people are less likely to stick to higher-intensity exercise programmes, the researchers said. ‘As long-term patient compliance and adherence are required to improve glycaemic control effectively and reduce the prevalence of diabetes-related co-morbidities, it is essential to minimise patient dropout,’ they said.

  • Read the full version of this story in this week’s Independent Nurse dated 7 September

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