5th August 2014 – Periods of power walking interspersed with strolling at a more leisurely pace may be a more effective combination for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels rather than walking at a constant speed, according to a small Danish study.
The beneficial effects of exercise for helping those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels are well-researched. Although high-intensity exercise offers the prospect of better control, patients are often warned against such an approach because of the risk of injuring themselves and the likelihood they will not stick at it.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen previously demonstrated the value of interval-walking training, where the intensity of the training alternates. Their latest study analyses how this technique helps patients.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to 3 groups. Twelve were put into a programme of interval-walking training (IWT); a further 12 were assigned to a group using a constant walking approach (CWT); the remainder formed a control group.
Training consisted of five 1 hour sessions each week for 4 months. The groups were given precise instructions about their exercise regime, although the training was unsupervised.
A device was used to measure blood glucose levels and insulin production in each of the volunteers at the start and end of the study period.
The researchers found that improved blood sugar control was only found among those who had mixed power walking with slower walking and that this was probably caused by an increase in insulin sensitivity.
The authors write: "Whether these beneficial effects of IWT continue and result in better health outcomes in the long term must be determined in order to justify the clinical utility of interval training for people with type 2 diabetes."
The research is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Further research needed
Commenting on the findings in a statement, Dr Richard Elliott, Diabetes UK’s research communications manager, says: "This small study builds on previous evidence to suggest that interval training, involving alternating periods of high and low intensity exercise, might help people with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels. It found that interval training seemed to be linked to improvements in insulin sensitivity around the body.
"Further research is needed to find out if this form of exercise yields greater long-term health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes than other forms of physical activity and of course it might not be suitable for everyone with the condition.
"We know that the best way to manage type 2 diabetes is to follow medications prescribed by your doctor and to maintain a healthy weight by taking regular exercise and by eating a healthy balanced diet that is low in salt, fat and sugar and high in fruit and vegetables."
'Mechanisms behind the superior effects of interval vs continuous training on glycaemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial', Thomas Solomon et al, Diabetologia.
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