Exercise For Diabetes

The Fast Path to Heart Health with Diabetes

Almost all of us who have diabetes are too busy to keep our hearts in good shape. At least most of us act as if we were.

When our hearts get out of shape, we aren’t so busy any more. Heart disease is the most common as well as the most serious complication of diabetes.

This combination of lack of time and importance of heart health drive my quest for a quicker way to meet this challenge of living long with diabetes.

Lead Author Arnt Erik Tjønna (left) Tests a Volunteer for his Maximal Oxygen Uptake

A couple of weeks ago I learned the answer when I was in Canada’s Yukon Territory. I was driving to Alaska, where I am enjoying a cool summer. I had my car radio tuned to 105.1 FM from Burwash Landing, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio One station. The speaker was Dr. Brian Goldman.

He was talking about a new study by researchers in Norway that showed how three short high-intensity training sessions each week is a more efficient way to improve maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) than longer regular training, a well-established measure of physical fitness. The shorter and more efficient training was just one 4-minute interval at 90 percent of the participants maximum heart rate done three times a week.

Eventually, I found the study that Dr. Goldman was talking about. I had missed the original research article when PLOS ONE published it on May 29. It was easy to miss because of its rather technical title, “Low- and High-Volume of Intensive Endurance Training Significantly Improves Maximal Oxygen Uptake after 10-Weeks of Training in Healthy Men.”

Most of us probably think that to get in shape means that we have to do hours and hours of training. This new research shows, however, that doing just four minutes of vigorous activity three times per week in enough for us to be fit and healthy. This is easier to incorporate into our busy daily lives.

A couple of cavaets are in order. The study was of 26 inactive but otherwise healthy overweight men and the findings may not, of course, hold for previously active men or for women or for people not in good health. And, of course, before starting such intense exercise you will have to consult with your doctor, particularly if you are already suffering heart problems.

But the very idea of intense exercise makes a lot of sense to me. I have written here about the advantages of a similar strategy called interval training, most recently at “Get Fit Fast with Diabetes” and follow it myself.

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

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  • Reply Rhonda November 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you. I have been on low carb diet for a couple of months now. Blood sugars are better than they were, but still need to be better. Thanks everybody for all your help. I love this site!

  • Reply Rhonda November 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks Mari, for the help regarding exercise and elevated blood sugar. I will try that. My dr. is having me to test 2 hrs after eating breakfast to help her see what is going on. It has been being about 200. Today, I took extra insulin and it was 180. Is there anything else I can do? Thanks

    • Reply David Mendosa November 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Dear Rhonda,

      Carbohydrates are what make your blood sugar go up. The foods that cause this the most are potatoes and grains, particularly wheat and anything made from wheat. Reducing if not eliminating them are actually the FIRST things to do to avoid elevated blood sugar.



  • Reply Mari November 2, 2013 at 7:55 am

    You bet David! I keep hopin Marcey Robinson who is up in Aspen will eventually write a book about diabetes, nutrition and exercise as she is the best out there in terms I knowledge. If you can ever do an interview with her I highly suggest you do. She also talks about how the more fit one gets the less often one can go low when exercising. It’s fascinating and has to do with the muscles ability to process glucose, which is why it is so good for those of us with diabetes to lift weights!! Crazy world we live in!! Be well David and again, thanks for all your great work!

    • Reply David Mendosa November 2, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Dear Mari,

      Thank you. But from one sentence on her website I am guessing that we are too far apart to have a fruitful dialogue. It says, “I LOVE Carbs, and I will help you understand why you can too!” Well, actually, I love carbs too, but they certainly don’t love me!



  • Reply Mari November 2, 2013 at 6:48 am

    The other reason your blood sugar can go high after exercise is that doing weight training often will cause blood sugar to go up. It has to do with doing anaerobic exercise which weight training is vs doing aerobic training. One idea is to do aerobic training first then do the weight lifting when your blood sugar is a little lower. And sometimes, I will actually bolus a bit of insulin when I’m doing just weight training. Of course, testing often and experimentation are the key to success!

    • Reply David Mendosa November 2, 2013 at 7:24 am

      Dear Mari,

      I have been wondering why exercise leads to HIGHER blood sugar levels in some people. I didn’t know that weight training can do that. Thank you so much for your comment.



  • Reply Rhonda September 18, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I have noticed that after exercise my glucose levels are higher. I usually exercise shortly after breakfast, about 30-45 min. combining aerobic and some weight training. Why does this happen and is there anything I can do to help?

    • Reply David Mendosa September 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Dear Rhonda,

      This could be caused by several things. One is that the dawn phenomenon could still be at work. This is when the liver pumps out stored glucose for us to deal with the events of the day. Another thing is that perhaps it’s the effect of your breakfast. My question for you is what your level is just before you exercise? If it is 200-250 or more, we have known that it’s not a good thing to exercise, because your level will go higher yet.



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