Diabetes and Exercise: A Heart Healthy Reason To Consider Interval Training

Resistance-based interval training may reduce the risk of heart disease in middle-aged and older adults with type 2 diabetes.

According to research published in the American Journal of Physiology, the heart protective effects of interval training are owed to the improved endothelial function this type of exercise provides.

The endothelial cells lining the interior walls of our blood vessels play a pivotal role in vascular tone, blood flow, and blood vessel dilation. For those with type 2 diabetes, endothelial abnormalities can impair cardiovascular function, and may lead to nerve damage, or other complications.

Interval Benefits for Diabetes

Interval training is a technique involving bursts of intense activity followed by short “rest” periods of reduced activity. Many people like this form of exercise because fitness levels are increased in a short span of workout time.

The researchers compared two types of interval training:

  • Some participants engaged in resistance-based interval workouts, using weighted leg resistance exercises.
  • Other participants performed a cardiovascular-based interval workout, using a stationary bicycle.

All the participants, some with type 2 diabetes, followed the same interval exercise routine:

  1. A three-minute warm-up.
  2. Seven one-minute intense interval sessions, with one-minute rest periods between each session.
  3. A three-minute cool down.

Though both types of interval exercises - cardiovascular and resistance - were determined beneficial, the investigators discovered the resistance-based workouts provided a more marked improvement in the endothelial function of those with type 2 diabetes.

Other possible benefits of interval training are decreased fasting insulin levels, better insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol profiles.

Interval Training Tips

Interval training is feasible for most of us since it can be adjusted to suit different fitness levels and health conditions—plus it works with all types of exercise. However, getting a doctor’s okay is wise for those who have been sedentary, or have a history of heart disease, hight blood pressure, smoking, obesity, or other medical condition.

During interval workouts, the intense, or work interval should ideally get the heart pumping about 80 percent of its maximal rate, or the point where conversing is difficult. Rest intervals should be a comfortable activity, performed at 40 to 50 percent of the maximal heart rate. Doing interval training two or three times each week, as part of a well-rounded exercise plan, is recommended.

The metabolic effects of interval training, though beneficial overall, are of special concern for people with type 1 or 2 diabetes. Since the body continues to utilize increased energy up to two hours following interval workouts, it’s important to monitor carefully before and after exercising.

Sources: Science Daily; NCBI; Mercola Fitness

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