Ever since I began recommending interval exercise in my South Beach Diet Supercharged book in 2008, I have been intrigued by any new science that comes out on the subject.
Recently, a study published in the journal Diabetologia showed that breaking up interval exercise into three short “snacklike” sessions of intense exercise helped to control blood sugar more effectively in people with insulin resistance (a common precursor to type 2 diabetes) than one daily 30-minute session of moderate exercise. The trial was small, just 9 participants, average age 48, with medically confirmed insulin resistance, but it’s the first one that has looked specifically at people with blood sugar problems.
In short, what the study found was that 12 minutes of interval exercise (at 90% of maximal heart rate), finishing 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, controlled blood sugar better than one 30-minute session of steady state exercise (at 60% of maximal heart rate) before dinner only. The intervals consisted of six 1-minute periods of incline walking on a treadmill, each followed by 1 minute of recovery at a gentle stroll, or six 1-minute periods alternating between interval walking and interval resistance-based exercise, with 1-minute of walking recovery after each. The blood sugar benefits of the interval exercise not only lasted after the meals (breakfast and dinner in particular), but persisted for another 24 hours.
While the study authors note that more research clearly needs to be done in this area, this study only adds to the growing body of positive data on the benefits of doing intervals over a single, continuous workout.
I realize that many people don’t have a treadmill at home or in their office, but simply heading outside before meals for a short interval walk that rapidly raises your heart rate is usually possible for most of us. And if you can’t get outside, jogging in place in intervals could do it. Remember, in the study, the sessions lasted just 12 minutes, a boon for busy people.
I think you’ll be pleased with the results you get from doing intervals. This type of exercise has long been shown to effectively burn fat and calories and to help control blood pressure. The fact that intervals have now been found to help control blood sugar is exciting news for anyone concerned about prediabetes and diabetes.
In my The South Beach Diet Supercharged I include a phased interval walking program that shows you how to gradually work up to intense intervals. This is particularly important if you haven’t been exercising regularly. If you have health concerns, do consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.