The new Newcastle University (UK) study is the first to show that high intensity intermittent exercise training improves heart structure and benefits diabetes control in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A physically active lifestyle is known to help manage type 2 diabetes and is recommended alongside a good diet, as it is for people without diabetes. Despite the well documented benefits of a physically active lifestyle on diabetes control, the direct effects of exercise on the heart of people with diabetes is not known.
Short periods of more intense physical activity raise the heart rate more than longer periods at a modest intensity. In this study, the authors tested the effect of repeated short (up to 90 seconds) periods of intense cycling, called high intensity intermittent exercise, on diabetes control and the heart.
The researchers found that high intensity intermittent exercise significantly improved cardiac structure and function. The exercise particularly benefited the left ventricle, identified to be altered with type 2 diabetes, which was shown to become stronger and work more efficiently.
There was a significant but modest improvement in diabetes control. The authors concluded that the data reinforce how important a physically active lifestyle is for people with type 2 diabetes, adding that the findings also suggest that exercise does not have to be 30 minutes of continuous exercise - repeated short bouts of higher intensity exercise give strong benefits to the heart.
The study appears in Diabetologia
(the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).