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Exercise & Fitness for Senior Citizens

Brief, High-Intensity Workouts Appear to Help Diabetics Lower Blood Sugar

Improved blood sugar levels even though they did not lose weight during short two-week study - see video

Dec. 12, 2011 - Brief high intensity workouts - as little as six sessions over two weeks -  rapidly lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics, offering a potential fix for patients who struggle to meet exercise guidelines, according to researchers at McMaster University in Canada.

Their study found that a total of 30 minutes of high-intensity intermittent exercise per week, involving a total time commitment of 75 minutes, lowered 24-hour blood sugar concentrations, reduced blood sugar spikes after meals, and increased skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity, a marker of metabolic health.


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"These findings are intriguing because they suggest that exercising very strenuously for short periods of time, may provide many of the same health benefits as traditional exercise training," says Martin Gibala, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and supervising author of the study.

"This is the first study to show that intense interval training may be a potent, time-efficient strategy to improve glycemic regulation in people with type 2 diabetes."

Current guidelines from the Canadian Diabetes Association call for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week—twice the training time commitment of study participants—which can be tough to manage for many people including those with diabetes, adds Gibala.


Note: More about Type 2 Diabetes and exercise recommendations in U.S. below this news report.

He is quick to point out that larger studies are needed to comprehensively examine the potential benefits of this type of training, especially compared to traditional exercise guidelines.

The small proof-of-principle study, conducted with eight diabetics, appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

For the study, researchers gave each volunteer a baseline exam to test blood sugar over a 24-hour period, assess fitness levels and take biopsies of thigh muscle to measure proteins linked to health status.

Each workout involved riding a stationary bike for 10 bouts of 60 seconds at roughly 90 percent of maximal heart rate, with one minute between each burst of exercise. The routine also included a warm up and cool down such that each training session lasted 25 minutes in total.

Participants showed improved blood sugar levels even though they did not lose weight during the short two-week study.

"The improved glycemic control may be linked to changes in the subjects' muscles, such as an improved ability to clear glucose from the blood after meals", says Gibala.

"We need to conduct further research to identify the mechanisms behind these results."

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, says it is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 140,000 alumni in 128 countries.

About Type 2 Diabetes

MedlinePlus, U.S. National Institutes of Health

Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. With Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums and teeth.

You have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are older, obese, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes appear slowly. Some people do not notice symptoms at all. The symptoms can include
  > Being very thirsty
  > Urinating often
  > Feeling very hungry or tired
  > Losing weight without trying
  > Having sores that heal slowly
  > Having blurry eyesight

A blood test can show if you have diabetes. Many people can manage their diabetes through healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing. Some people also need to take diabetes medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes and Exercise

Exercise is as important as medicine for managing your diabetes. It can help you lose weight, if you are overweight. It also helps prevent weight gain.

Exercise helps lower your blood sugar without medicines. It reduces your risk for heart disease and stress.

Be patient. It may take several months after you start exercising before you see changes in your health.

See also: Managing your blood sugar

Talk to Your Doctor First

Your health care provider should make sure your exercise program is safe for you.

Call your doctor if you feel faint, have chest pain, or feel short of breath when you exercise.

Call your doctor if your feet feel numb or painful. Also call if you have sores or blisters on your feet.

Make sure you call your doctor if your blood sugar gets too low or too high during the day.

If you take medicines that lower your blood sugar, exercise can make your blood sugar go too low. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to take your medicines when you exercise.

Some types of exercise can make your eyes worse if you already have diabetic eye disease. Get an eye exam before starting an exercise program. This can make sure your exercise program will be safe for you.

See also: Diabetes - eye care

Getting Started

Start slowly with walking. If you are out of shape, walk for 5 - 10 minutes.

Try to set a goal of fast walking. You should do this for 30 - 45 minutes at least 5 days a week. Do more if you can. Swimming or exercise classes are also good.

Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes. Tell coaches and exercise partners that you have diabetes. Always have fast-acting carbs with you. Carry emergency phone numbers with you.

Drink plenty of water. Do this before, during, and after exercising. Try to exercise at the same time of day, for the same amount of time, and at the same level. This will make your blood sugars easier to control.

Your Blood Sugar and Exercise

When you exercise, check your blood sugar before exercise. Also check it during exercise, if you are exercising for longer than 45 minutes.

Finally, make sure to check it right after exercise, and later on. Exercise can make your blood sugar drop up to 12 hours after you are done.

If you use insulin, ask your doctor when you should eat before you exercise. Also find out how to adjust your dose when you exercise.

Do NOT inject insulin in a part of your body that you are exercising.

Keep a snack nearby that can raise your blood sugar quickly. Examples are:

   >> 5 or 6 small hard candies

   >> 1 tablespoon sugar, plain or dissolved in water

   >> 1 tablespoon honey or syrup

   >> 3 or 4 glucose tablets

   >> 1/2 can regular, non-diet soda

   >> 1/2 cup fruit juice

Have a larger snack if you will be exercising more than usual. You can also have more frequent snacks. You may need to adjust your medicine if you are planning unusual exercise.

If exercise causes a lot of low blood sugars, talk with your doctor. You may need to lower the dose of your medicine.

Your Feet and Exercise

You might not feel pain in your feet because of your diabetes. You may not notice a sore or blister on your foot. Call your doctor for any changes on your feet. Small problems can become serious if they go untreated.

Always check your feet for any problems before and after exercise.

When you exercise wear socks that keep moisture away from your feet. Also wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

See also: Diabetes - taking care of your feet

Update Date: 6/16/2011

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