The impact of brief high-intensity exercise on blood glucose levels
O Peter Adams
Faculty of Medical Sciences, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, St Michael, Barbados
Background: Moderate-intensity exercise improves blood glucose (BG), but most people fail to achieve the required exercise volume. High-intensity exercise (HIE) protocols vary. Maximal cycle ergometer sprint interval training typically requires only 2.5 minutes of HIE and a total training time commitment (including rest and warm up) of 25 minutes per session. The effect of brief high-intensity exercise on blood glucose levels of people with and without diabetes is reviewed.
Methods: HIE (≥80% maximal oxygen uptake, VO2max) studies with ≤15 minutes HIE per session were reviewed.
Results: Six studies of nondiabetics (51 males, 14 females) requiring 7.5 to 20 minutes/week of HIE are reviewed. Two weeks of sprint interval training increased insulin sensitivity up to 3 days postintervention. Twelve weeks near maximal interval running (total exercise time 40 minutes/week) improved BG to a similar extent as running at 65% VO2max for 150 minutes/week. Eight studies of diabetics (41 type 1 and 22 type 2 subjects) were reviewed. Six were of a single exercise session with 44 seconds to 13 minutes of HIE, and the others were 2 and 7 weeks duration with 20 and 2 minutes/week HIE, respectively. With type 1 and 2 diabetes, BG was generally higher during and up to 2 hours after HIE compared to controls. With type 1 diabetics, BG decreased from midnight to 6 AM following HIE the previous morning. With type 2 diabetes, a single session improved postprandial BG for 24 hours, while a 2-week program reduced the average BG by 13% at 48 to 72 hours after exercise and also increased GLUT4 by 369%.
Conclusion: Very brief HIE improves BG 1 to 3 days postexercise in both diabetics and nondiabetics. HIE is unlikely to cause hypoglycemia during and immediately after exercise. Larger and longer randomized studies are needed to determine the safety, acceptability, long-term efficacy, and optimal exercise intensity and duration.
Keywords: high-intensity interval training, sprint interval training, diabetes, glucose
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