Diabetes and Exercise: Interval Weight Training Boosts Cardiovascular Health
If a single 20 minute session of interval weight-training can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes complications, imagine how beneficial regular sessions of interval weight-training would be.
Recently, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) demonstrated that completing just one interval series of basic weighted leg exercises improves our vascular function, and this study included participants with type 2 diabetes.
“Individuals with type 2 diabetes are up to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without,” said Jonathan Little, the study’s senior investigator. “After completion of just one bout of exercise, we saw an improvement in blood vessel function, an indicator of heart health and heart attack risk.”
About Interval Training
Interval training involves alternating bursts of vigorous activity with intervals of lighter activity. This training method can be used with aerobic activities, such as alternating brisk walking with intervals of jogging, and can be used in weight and resistance activities.
Using interval training, people notice improvements in strength and endurance without increasing their exercise time, and the periods of more vigorous activity burn away extra calories. The alternating intensity levels also add variety and interest to familiar workout routines, stimulating our motivation to exercise regularly.
Despite the benefits, people who have been sedentary, exercise moderately, and those with chronic health conditions should check with a doctor before implementing interval training. Individuals starting interval training should begin slowly to avoid injury, and anyone taking on a new activity should consider getting training or advice from a fitness expert.
Interval Weight Resistance and Type 2
The UBC study compared the effects of two types of interval training, one involving weighted resistance (leg presses, extension, and lifts), and the other using cardiovascular exercise (stationary bike).
Of the study's three exercise groups, one contained participants with type 2 diabetes. The other two groups were non-exercisers, and regular exercisers without diabetes. Each group performed 20 minute exercise routines that included a warm up, and seven one-minute high intensity intervals, alternating with one-minute rest intervals.
Though all participants showed improved blood vessel function following the resistance-based exercise session, the improvement was more prominent in the type 2 diabetes exercise group. “With further study, this information could provide a new safe and cost-effective tool to help people manage their disease,” said Little.
Although more research is needed to validate the UBC investigators' conclusions, there are a couple practical points we can take away from this study:
- The researchers used weighted resistance in the study because “it’s relatively easy and can accommodate individuals who are new to exercising,” according to study co-author Monique Francois. So, resistance activities might be a good way for non-exercisers to start a fledgling workout routine. As muscle tone and stamina increase, some aerobic activities might be added as well.
- The study suggests that resistance-based interval exercise is a time-efficient and effective way to enjoy immediate health benefits. So, just one or two interval resistance sessions per week may provide huge health dividends, and simultaneously add variety to our exercise regimen.
Those who do not have access to fitness center or home-based resistance equipment might consider working out with portable resistance bands. Two common types are "tube bands" that have a handle on each end, and "loop bands" that resemble giant rubber bands. It’s easy to explore exercising with bands by watching a few resistance band videos at YouTube.