Intense exercise can help restore heart function in Type 2 diabetes patients: Study
12/14/2019 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 90 to 95 percent of the 30 million Americans that have diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. This chronic illness is characterized by a resistance to the hormone insulin, which helps the body convert blood sugar into energy. If left unchecked, Type 2 diabetes can eventually lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. Excessive blood glucose could bring severe complications like vision loss and cardiovascular disease. Now, recent evidence suggests that regular bouts of exercise may be the key to better heart health in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that three months of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improved the heart function of adults with Type 2 diabetes, without any change in their diet or medications. (Related: Just 10 minutes of exercise is all it takes to cut your risk of dying by nearly 20 percent.)

Get active for better heart health

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand aimed to determine if three months of HIIT had an effect on the left ventricular function during exercise in adults with Type 2 diabetes. This HIIT session involved very short intervals of rigorous activity, such as sprinting or stair climbing. These bouts of intense exercise were separated by intervals of moderate exercise, like brisk walking or jogging.

To confirm their hypothesis, the researchers asked 11 middle-aged participants with Type 2 diabetes to engage in 25-minute exercise sessions that included 10 minutes of very high-intensity activity. The team measured heart function at rest and during the low- and moderate-intensity exercises, before and after the three-month training period. They compared these results to the data measured from a control group consisting of five participants who did not receive any training.


From the results, the researchers determined that those who underwent HIIT exhibited significantly improved heart function after three months of training.

Prior to this study, it was understood that impaired heart function may make it difficult for people with diabetes to exercise effectively and efficiently. It was also not known whether the participants would train as hard as they expected. The results of the study showed that HIIT program is safe, acceptable and well-attended among middle-aged adults with Type 2 diabetes, with over an 80 percent adherence rate over three months.

According to lead author Genevieve Wilson, their results were significant because while recent research has shown that lifestyle changes can definitely improve some outcomes for those with diabetes, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease has not been realized. Wilson said that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

“Our research has found that exercise at sufficiently high intensity may provide an inexpensive, practical way to reverse, or reduce the loss in heart function caused by type 2 diabetes,” Wilson said.

Senior author Dr. Chris Baldi, Senior Research Fellow at the Dunedin School of Medicine, claims that incidents of Type 2 diabetes continue to increase and that the prolonged management and treatment of this disease is crippling healthcare systems around the world. To him, increasing aerobic activity among patients with Type 2 diabetes is one of the best prevention tactics against heart disease.

“There are two important clinical implications of this work,” Baldi points out. “The first, that adults with Type 2 diabetes will adhere to high-intensity interval training and are capable of comparable increases in aerobic capacity and left ventricular exercise response as those reported in non-diabetic adults.”

Secondly, he claims that high-intensity exercise has the ability to reverse some of the changes in heart function that precede diabetic heart disease.

Want to know more about diabetes and its relationship with cardiovascular disease? Browse through similar stories at

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