Exercise For Diabetes

Better Fitness for Our Hearts and Blood Glucose

Most people say they don’t have enough time to get the exercise that the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association say we need to protect our hearts and manage our diabetes. Their standard recommendation of 30 minutes a day five times a week works out to 2 ½ hours a week. And that doesn’t count the time it takes to get to the trail or the gym.

When we work one or more full-time jobs, interact with our family and friends, relax and sleep a little, we often feel like we don’t have any time left to work out. If only we could find a shortcut!

Now, however, some researchers have the answer. By trading intensity for time we can much more efficiently get the physical activity we all need.

The trick is a new twist on the interval training that almost all competitive athletics use to build up their speed and endurance. The usual interval training combines bursts of high-intensity exercise with longer periods of regular intensity exercise. A former girlfriend who is both a Certified Diabetes Educator and an athlete taught me that several years ago, and I recommended it then in “Efficient Exercise for Glucose Control.”

That’s fine, but the new twist is better for busy people. Skip the regular exercise.

This is the efficient exercise formula that four researchers at a Canadian University developed. Their study, “Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease,” appears in a recent issue of The Journal of Physiology.

They worked with people who weren’t fit and others who had heart problems. The volunteers did just one minute of pushing themselves to about 90 percent of their maximum heart rate followed by a minute of recovery repeated 10 times. After several weeks of this practice they had “significant improvement” in both their health and fitness.

Not surprisingly, the volunteers liked this formula a lot better than a control group doing regular intensity exercise that had to spend a lot more time working out. And a small follow-up study shows that people with type 2 diabetes can also control their blood glucose level with this formula.
These people with diabetes had lower blood glucose levels after their meals through the next day. This study, “Acute high-intensity interval exercise reduces the postprandial glucose response and prevalence of hyperglycaemia in patients with type 2 diabetes,” appears in a recent issue of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.

But what if you are one of those people who can make the time for more exercise? Don’t stop.

I will keep on getting out in nature a lot, as I wrote earlier this week on my “Fitness and Photography for Fun” blog in my review of “The Nature Principle.” By hiking slowly — but a lot longer — I get the exercise I need and at the same time I get my nature fix.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Reply Shar July 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I have been told I’m prediabetic only because my A1C was 5.9 and in two years, I got it down to 5.5. I’ve been exercising all of my life and I do Peak8 Cardio for a few years now. This is high intensity cardio that I do 2x a week. I walk after dinner almost every night too and I have been weight training for 28 yrs.

    My problem is this..I listen to Dr. Bernstein’s podcast and I found that what he says about this to be true….It you attempt high intense cardio within 3 hours of AM waking hours, your blood sugar will rise. I was doing fasting cardio about an hour or two after waking and began testing my blood. Sure enough it would go pretty high.
    What can I do to get the benefits of doing fasting cardio but not spike my sugar? Should I do it later in the day maybe a few hours after breakfast?

    • Reply David Mendosa July 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Dear Shar,

      Right. That sounds to be in line with what Dr. Bernstein knows.


  • Reply Carl Villarin April 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. The same changes can also lower the chances of developing heart disease and some cancers.
    This amount of exercise has a variety of other benefits as well. And even greater cardiovascular and other advantages can be attained by more, and more intense, exercise.

  • Reply Michael Kleinman April 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I have been using exercise to control my postparndial blood glucose levels for over a year now with good results. I recently developed a technique that gives me more bang for my buck which I call Postprandial Strategic Timed Exercise (PSTE). Quite by accident when missing my after dinner walk I noticed that my BG levels dropped dramatically when I ended up walking several hours after I ate instead of right after. If I exercise too much or too vigorously right after I eat when my levels are high my BG levels will actually go up because my liver releases a lot of Glycogen. I realized that exercise is much more efficient for dropping BG if I wait till glucose and insulin levels have come down and I am not fighting my livers glycogen release. The problem is if I wait for my BG to come down on it’s own then my levels are too high for too long. My solution is to walk 15 minutes right after dinner to bring my BG down to a reasonable level around 100-110 and then walk again two hours later for 15 minutes which will often bring my BG into the low to middle 80’s. If I walk for 30 minutes right after dinner I have never been able to achieve anywhere near the same results. I have been using PSTE for almost 2 months now and most of the time I have been able to keep my BG levels in the 80’s or low 90’s from after dinner to when I start eating the next day which is at least a 12 hour period.

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