Could high intensity exercise help to heal type 2 diabetes?

Unfortunately, we all know that many people around the world are suffering from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is very different than type 1 diabetes — whereas in type 1 diabetes the body is no longer able to produce the hormone insulin, which is mainly responsible for regulating blood sugar, in a type 2 diabetic the body can still produce insulin but is no longer able to use it efficiently.

Do you know that for many patients exercise can actually be more effective than medication? Now of course that doesn’t mean that you can just stop taking medication and start exercising, it’s unfortunately not that simple! However, you can gradually you reduce your symptoms, feel much better, and improve your health with exercise.

Your physician probably already suggested that you walk at least 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, which is great, but if you can change your walking speed or the type of activity then depending on your physical conditions and fitness levels you may get three times more benefit in a shorter period of time.

Examples of this are high intensity interval training, as well as combining resistance training with endurance type of training, and with this you can see positive results in a very short time period. An example of high Intensity Interval training (HIIT) could be on a bike, going as fast as you can for 20 to 30 seconds, then resting and recovering for 1½ to 2½ minutes, and then repeating these intervals 5 to 8 times. Of course, the intensity will vary with the individual’s fitness level. HIIT can be done in 10 to 20 minutes, so it’s time efficient which can also help keep you motivated too.

You can apply this HIIT principle to many activities such as walking, fast swimming, or cardio machines in the gym. Even if you don’t have access to a gym you can use bodyweight exercises such as jump jacks, increased speed squats, push-ups (you can also do wall push-ups to make them easier), so really for any situation you can find an exercise, increase intensity, and use it for your high intensity training. Do just make sure to try and push your limit and stay consistent.

Benefits of HIIT include improving oxygen in the blood, which can help with circulation, improving mental health, and regulating blood sugar levels as well as many other health benefits such as increased muscle mass. It can also help with improving post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means that even after your workout you are still burning extra calories and this can lead to an increased metabolic rate.

You need to give time between HIIT sessions, with around 48 to 72 hours recovery, and no more than three strenuous workouts per week. Of course, you still need to have an otherwise active lifestyle, with things like regular walks, and trying to avoid sitting too much for long periods.

In addition to HIIT, you can of course increase muscle by regularly practicing resistance exercises such as using gym equipment, resistance bands, and even body weight exercises. It’s important that you apply some form of resistance for muscle gain, as this can help regulate your blood sugar and eventually you will become insulin sensitive, not resistant. And of course just a quick reminder that it’s still so important that you watch your diet, as exercise alone will never rescue anyone from a diet high in ultra-processed food and added sugar. I wish it were true that we could exercise regularly and then just eat anything we want, but of course unfortunately it is not!

We all know the importance of an active lifestyle, but knowing and applying are two different things. But as long as we take our own responsibility, we all have power and all the resources to heal ourselves. I really wish that one day, just like going to see your physician, you could instead go straight to the activity specialist to give you a prescription for exercise.

Resources:

1 — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334091/

2 — https://www.diabetes.co.uk/high-intensity-interval-training.html

3 — https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5008/7-things-to-know-about-excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption-epoc/

4 — https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325362

5 — https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/67/Supplement_1/743-P

6 — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170407103559.htm

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