In research published in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders, scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, say they found that brief but intense exercise every day or two may help reduce the risk of diabetes.
James Timmons, a professor in the school of engineering and physical sciences, says he and a team of investigators looked into the effect of "high-intensity training" on the insulin action and blood sugar control in 16 young, healthy male volunteers.
They found that insulin sensitivity improved significantly in the two-week study.
Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Many people feel they simply don't have the time to follow current exercise guidelines, and that's unfortunate, he says, because his team found that "doing a few intense muscle exercises, each lasting only about 30 seconds, dramatically improves your metabolism in just two weeks." Current recommendations include 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity a week.
His team found that "low-volume, high-intensity training ... substantially improved both insulin action and glucose clearance in otherwise sedentary young males."
That shows that "we do not yet fully appreciate the traditional connection between exercise and diabetes," Timmons says.
The test subjects used exercise bikes to perform quick, rigorous sprints for 30 seconds totaling 15 minutes over a two-week period. The participants were either sedentary or recreationally active, but none was in a structured exercise program.
"This novel approach may help people to lead a healthier life, improve the future health of the population, and save the health service millions of pounds [or dollars] simply by making it easier for people to find the time to exercise."
The researchers note that their finding is significant because type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide. The risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be reduced, the authors say, but exercise regimens must not be too time-consuming or onerous.