Short bouts of high intensity exercise before breakfast, lunch and dinner helps control blood sugar levels in people with insulin resistance more effectively than one session of 30 min moderate intensity training according to a study recently published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).1 The researchers have found that these “exercise snacks” before meals reduce blood sugar spikes after meals.
Insulin resistance means that the body cannot use insulin effectively, causing high blood glucose levels. People with insulin resistance are at risk of developing diabetes type II. Find more information about diabetes at diabetes.no.
Nine men and two women (mean age 48) with insulin resistance were included in the study. The study used a cross-over design, meaning that each participant acts as their own control, and questions can be answered with a small number of participants.
Participants completed three separate one-day exercises regimes in randomized order:
- Continuous exercise (CONT) – 30 min moderate intensity exercise (60% of maximal heart rate) incline walking before dinner
- Exercise snacking (ES) – 6×1 min intense (90% of maximal heart rate) incline walking intervals 30 min before breakfast, lunch and dinner (with one minute slow walking recovery after each minute of exercise)
- Composite exercise snacking (CES) – 6×1 min intervals alternating between walking and resistance exercise 30 min before breakfast, lunch and dinner (with one minute slow walking recovery after each minute of exercise)
The authors reported that exercise snacking before meals led to a 12 percent reduction in average post-meal blood sugar levels, whereas 30 min of moderate intensity exercise did not improve blood sugar control.
It is well established that high intensity exercise training is more efficient than moderate intensity training in improving markers of fitness. Arnt Erik Tjønna from CERG and collaborators2 have previously shown superior improvement in insulin sensitivity after intense training regimes. The current study demonstrate that both the timing and the intensity of exercise for people with insulin resistance should be considered for optimizing control of blood sugar. Reducing the post-meal spikes in blood sugar by exercise snacking may be important for reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
This type of training regime is time-efficient, fun and good for your health – Why don’t you give it a try!
Anne Berit Johnsen, researcher at CERG
- Francois ME, Baldi JC, Manning PJ, Lucas SJ, Hawley JA, Williams MJ and Cotter JD. ‘Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance. Diabetologia. 2014;57:1437-45.
- Tjonna AE, Lee SJ, Rognmo O, Stolen TO, Bye A, Haram PM, Loennechen JP, Al-Share QY, Skogvoll E, Slordahl SA, Kemi OJ, Najjar SM and Wisloff U. Aerobic interval training versus continuous moderate exercise as a treatment for the metabolic syndrome: a pilot study. Circulation. 2008;118:346-54.